I am an actuary – June 2022

The first edition of ‘I am an actuary’ for 2022 profiles eight young actuaries’ unique pathways into the profession, which have opened the door to global opportunities across a variety of sectors.

Arthur Sarvos

My pathway into the actuarial profession involved taking the scenic route. From a very early stage in my development, I was set on pursuing a double degree in Commerce and Economics. I still recall my conversation with the careers advisor at my high school asking me if I would consider becoming an actuary, a profession which I had very little understanding of at that point.

As I progressed in my degrees, I found myself filling as many of my electives with the deeper quantitative options and much less so with accounting subjects. At this point, I had a strong sense that I would one day pursue a Master of Actuarial Studies.

Fast forward three years out of my undergraduate degrees and I was ready to dive back into study. I had a lot of motivation at this point, pursuing a full time role as a technical manager and assistant director at the Australian Bureau of Statistics on top of full time study at UNSW. Upon completing my studies, I wanted to ensure I maintained my connection with the government sector. This experience was instrumental to my success as I transitioned to a role within the Health and Human Services Actuarial Analytics Team at EY.

Now a manager at EY, I assist a range of government clients with improving their ability to make informed decisions based on linked data, machine learning, and data visualisation. One of the most fulfilling aspects of my role is seeing not only the positive impact we have on our clients, but the impact on their clients (i.e. the people). My passion for enabling organisations to make better decisions using data also extends to my spare time, where I lend my data analytics skills to not-for-profit organisations as a volunteer for the Good Data Institute.

Blair Wu

I first heard of the term ‘actuary’ in Chinese when I was in high school. My maths teacher was giving us a lecture about how we were his worst cohort (he says that about every cohort) and that one of his best students was a winning National Math Olympiad and became an actuary in the US. The competitive, 14-year-old me told myself at that very moment that I can be an actuary too if I wanted to. It turned out, two years later, I was on my way to pursue an actuarial degree in Australia.

After graduation, I joined EY Actuarial in the Banking and Capital Markets Team and was excited to put my study into solving real life problems. Over the years, I was blessed with diverse opportunities to get exposure to a wide range of projects and clients. The knowledge and skillset I gained as an actuary provides enormous freedom for me to explore different types of work, ranging from pure modelling to strategic planning.

The journey to qualification was by no means smooth sailing for me. It was a combination of countless study hours, encouragement from family, friends and colleagues and a little bit of luck every now and then.

Outside of work and study, I enjoy spending time with friends, playing poker, board/video games, hiking and horse riding.

David Yan

Choosing a degree at the end of Year 12 was simple for me. During high school, I enjoyed maths and learning about businesses, so pursuing an actuarial degree was a no-brainer.

Throughout my time at university, I took on a range of internships across the actuarial and finance fields to gain as much experience as possible and figure out my area of work. In my final year, I studied the Actuarial Control Cycle and particularly enjoyed its big picture focus on the banking, insurance, and superannuation industries. This motivated my decision to apply for a graduate position at the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) which offered unparalleled exposure to the financial sector.

I started my first year at APRA in 2021 within the insurance industry where I supported the supervision of a portfolio of life insurers and the execution of various industry initiatives. A personal highlight was the exposure to company CEOs, CROs, and Appointed Actuaries – quite a perk for juniors.

Earlier this year, I joined the Authorised Deposit-Taking Institutions (ADI) Stress Testing Team. In this role, I work on the Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) to assess how climate risks financially impact the major banks. I worked extensively in RStudio to generate valuable data insights and learned the pivotal role banks play in supporting the net-zero transition. Most importantly, I appreciated the value actuaries can add in emerging areas such as banking and climate.

Being an actuary opens doors across many fields that value analytical and risk-based skillsets. Within my organisation, there are actuaries working in a variety of roles across banking, insurance, and superannuation. I look forward to seeing the profession continue expanding its presence into new and exciting areas.

Lumia Ma

“You will use English to walk (communicate) and Math to eat (earn a living).” From a small city in Sichuan, China, my dad, a part-time English teacher, was right about that all along but he didn’t know what was next.

Studying and working on the other side of the world, meeting people from various backgrounds, doing an exchange in Singapore and Myanmar, becoming an actuary and working at Taylor Fry on a range of projects in a second language. There are many highlights!

Surrounded by peers from all over the world, the stimulating conversations and vibrant cultural exchanges I had during my exchange in Singapore is still my most cherished university memory. In Myanmar, I glimpsed into the country’s longstanding struggle across colonisation, military dictatorship, and ethnic tension. I felt connected to the people who have suffered but still strive to improve their lives against impossible odds.

From my experience, I learnt to appreciate diversity, empathy, and an open mind to embrace possibilities.

Just like my dad probably shouldn’t make a presumption about my career, neither would I make a presumption about my life. Because I know, no matter what awaits me ahead, I can embrace them with a curious and open mind. Just like I always have.

Harry Austin

It all started with a conversation over the usual family dinner, weeks before finishing high school, when I first discovered the occupation of an actuary. You could call this a turning point. I don’t know where I would be today, or how happy with my career choice I would be, had the role of an actuary not come up that day. After researching the subjects I’d be studying as part of the major at university, choosing this path was easy. It encompassed all my interests in finance, mathematics and statistics.

The following year I commenced a Bachelor of Commerce (Actuarial Science) at Monash University. The completion of my degree was my major focus for the next three years. However, I also needed to support myself and, on reflection, the three years of working in hospitality/catering and taking the opportunity to travel overseas were priceless. It gave me life lessons, experiences and personal growth – a big factor in my consulting role today!

I have now been with PwC for four years working in superannuation consulting. People who know me would know I love my work and have a keen interest in the superannuation industry as a whole. It has been an exciting time to work in superannuation in recent years with the extensive regulation changes and merger activity. I have been very fortunate to work with many amazing actuaries who are doing great things to improve retirement outcomes for Australian society generally.

The journey so far into the actuarial profession has been rewarding and I am very thankful for everyone that has supported me over the years. This is only the early days. I am really looking forward to what the future holds.

Patricia Villya

My actuarial journey first started when I moved to Australia for university. Choosing a degree was not straightforward because I’ve always had passion for creative things, but I’ve also had the penchant for all things numeric. When I first came across Actuarial Science in the university booklet and did some research, I had doubts that it might be too mathematical and boring. Luckily, I was proven wrong.

Seven years later, I have only realised how important this leap has been. I am now working as an actuary in an Australian life insurer and I have really enjoyed myself. Actuarial work has turned out to challenge my creativity in more ways than I expected. Finding creative solutions to pricing and portfolio problems under time pressure, accommodating bespoke client product specifications, and defending recommendations to auditors have kept me on my toes (all this while burning through Part 3 exams!). Moreover, being able to pitch your ideas and communicate with different stakeholders from multiple teams have made working much more engaging.

The past few years of working have broadened my perspective of the type of roles actuaries fill. In addition to my main responsibility, I am also part of my company’s COVID taskforce, which allows me to work on something that (maybe) we have all cared about for the last two years.

As we are slowly going back to pre-pandemic life, work-life balance has been restored for me. In my spare time, I love to try new sports, I am an aspiring 1pianist and Duolingo-certified polyglot. I am also a proud, long-distance Corgi auntie. You can follow my brother’s Corgi on Instagram @jojothelilcorgi. Having richer life experiences outside of work is absolutely necessary to keep me excited about my career and where it may take me.

Jack Reardon

I want other student readers to know that taking years – many more than your peers – to get through the actuarial curriculum is a perfectly fine way to go. Maybe you felt pressure early on to get through the subjects quickly and to keep up with your cohort. While this pressure keeps us moving, some perspective is needed! I think of doctors, especially surgeons, who study and practice for years (many more than us actuaries) to gain very specialised and practical knowledge about how to save human lives.

For me, this is the ultimate goal as an actuary – to really understand, anticipate and solve. I want to help improve human lives, even if it is very indirect such as an actuary setting liabilities for an insurance company.

It has taken much learning and growth and getting through the exams to reach my current role of senior manager at a consulting firm. I deal with lots of data daily. Our clients don’t always know what they need or they don’t have the analytical background to tackle their own problems. I feel accomplished when our team can educate the client and help solve their problems.

I have a Bachelor of Computer Science, which I completed before my actuarial degree. These degrees, along with some added luck, have taken me from Australia to the US where I’m thankful to be based today. I lead a team conducting non-traditional actuarial analytics. I’m happiest when life is balanced and have time away from work to further my number one hobby: studying Chinese!

Stephanie Lam

I remember in high school I spoke with an actuary from the Actuaries Institute at a university open day. It was a short conversation, but her story was enough to spark my interest in the profession. I remember wanting to pursue something interesting and related to maths, so I am grateful I found a career path which has given me this and much more.

Throughout my actuarial degree at Macquarie University, I learnt the foundational actuarial skills and had the opportunity to apply these skills in a wide range of areas since the actuarial skillset is so flexible.

In my second year, I interned in the risk team at MLC Life Insurance where I learnt about the intriguing world of anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing, and risk management. At the end of that year, I took on an internship at Quantium where I was amazed by the power of data analytics and developed an interest in coding.

At the end of my third year, I was a vacationer at EY and was able to dabble in work across various actuarial fields and teams. The culmination of my experiences at this point made it clear to me that I wanted to solve broader problems with data and put my skills to good use.

I am currently an actuarial consultant in EY’s Health and Human Services team working across a range of projects. This job has the combination of technical, impactful and innovative work I want, not to mention that working closely with health experts in the team has made actuarial work even more meaningful and rewarding.

Read more I am an actuary profiles.

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