I am an Actuary – November 2022

Read our latest edition of I am an Actuary  and discover the profiles of six young actuaries’ whose unique pathways into the profession have opened the door to global opportunities across a variety of sectors.

Andy Wang

I’ve always been a tinkerer – taking things apart, seeing how they work, and putting them back together. As a teenager, I would disassemble and reconstruct remote control cars. In my job today, I apply the same curiosity to the algorithms used by financial service companies to bring new products to market.

While at school, I wasn’t sure exactly what career I wanted to pursue but I was certain that I wanted to end up somewhere where I could express my natural inquisitiveness and creativity. This is what motivated me to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. Here I explored perspectives on everything from rising asset prices to falling marriage rates. The common theme across each of these topics – other than their inherent lack of romance – was the importance of building theoretical frameworks to explain social phenomena while having an analytical toolkit to empirically critique those theories.

This way of thinking prepared me well for a graduate actuarial consultant role at RPC Tyche in London. I felt this was a natural transition from my studies, despite having zero insurance knowledge and no exam exemptions, and I was able to work right away developing software and actuarial models for London Market clients.

The latest chapter of my career has been as a pricing consultant at Finity, where I help clients uplift their modelling capabilities and better serve the needs of their customers.

I am excited for the future of the actuarial field. I look forward to seeing actuaries push boundaries and question the status quo to keep pace with technological developments and changing social expectations.

Hasith Wijesekera

I’ve always had a passion for problem solving and challenging myself in a quantitative environment. So, when an actuary came to my school to present in year 11, I was thrilled to hear of a profession which would allow me to pursue both.

Two years into my actuarial and economics degree, I was fortunate enough to land a position as an intern at Marsh Insurance and work in both the Actuarial and Mergers & Acquisitions teams. This further fueled my desire to become a qualified actuary and my four years at Marsh allowed me to gain a holistic understanding of the commercial insurance market.

At university I was also given the opportunity to tutor both Econometrics and Actuarial subjects. Teaching has always been a passion of mine as it allowed me to help students and further improve my communication skills due to the diverse range of individuals I worked with. These skills have greatly assisted me in my actuarial career to date.

After witnessing what the recent floods had done to my local community, I developed a strong interest in the climate space. I have since started as an Actuarial Manager at the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation where we are in the process of launching the Cyclone Reinsurance Pool to assist communities in high-risk regions access affordable insurance.

I have found my new role incredibly fulfilling as it has allowed me to combine my passion for climate modelling with my newfound interest in data analytics developed through my Fellowship studies. I look forward to working with talented and passionate actuaries to improve insurance accessibility.

Outside of work, I am an avid NRL fan and I enjoy touch footy, hiking, and classical guitar which I have played for over 12 years.

Jessica Chen

Being an actuary can be a long and arduous journey. Often you don’t know what you’re signing up for when you first get into it and it can be shocking to find out there are things called Part II and Part IIIs that extend past your university experience. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way because this career has been incredibly rewarding, challenging (but stimulating) and filled with amazingly smart people along the way.

I started off life terrible at numbers and unable to round up or down…until the numbers were presented in the form of cents and dollars and then suddenly I was a whiz. Maths became my favourite subject in high school and I wondered what career would allow me to apply maths to real world problems. There were many but in Year 10 an alumni came and spoke to us about this fancy thing they did called actuarial studies. At that time, estimating the future cost of claims and knowing how to price an insurance product sounded like witchcraft to me but it piqued my interest.

Fast forward a few years and I did the Vacationer program at EY where I got a taste of the diverse ways actuaries contribute to organisations, governments and people. It was an exciting time and I was sad when the internship ended. I joined EY the next year as a graduate in their general insurance team and they have been incredibly supportive throughout my ongoing studies. As a recently qualified actuary, I’m excited by all of the free time I now have and I am looking forward to the journey ahead.

 

Mary Chen

Choosing an actuarial degree was a leap of faith. My parents had heard of the profession through a family friend. It seemed like a prospective fit for a girl who was decently okay at maths and had no intention of studying medicine because she dreaded the idea of poking needles into people.

Going into uni, I found actuarial courses interesting but challenging. If you had told me back then that I would pass all my Part 3 exams and even win a prize, I never would have believed you. Luckily, I had a great support network. I was active with the Actuarial Society at UNSW, where I met people who remain my closest friends today. 

My first real exposure to the corporate world was an actuarial internship at Deloitte. This made me realise how different work is compared to uni. I was expecting to calculate the price of annuities using formulas. But instead, I solved real world client problems with sophisticated models, which I much preferred. I continued my career in EY Actuarial Service’s Life Insurance Team, where I spent three years working on a diverse range of projects spanning across pricing, valuation and capital. Here, I was fortunate to learn from experienced actuaries whose guidance has been pivotal for my career development. 

I am now a Pricing Actuary at Pacific Life Re, where my role is to support the pricing of retail life insurance products. I love that I can apply my technical skills to help deliver sustainable competitive advantage and market leading insights for our clients.

Outside of work, I spend my time at dance classes, including jazz, pop and waacking. Having recently qualified, I am excited for what the future holds and I look forward to growing as an actuary.

 

Saroop Phillip

My family and all my colleagues would say that I talk too much… but I just love people.  

Coming from a Christian household, serving people is central to my identity and I always knew that I wanted a career where I could make a difference. When I asked my high school’s career counsellor what an actuary was (a profession I had just learned about from Chandler Bing in the “Friends” episode “Christmas in Tulsa”), he said that it wouldn’t suit me because actuaries don’t do any socially impactful work. A quick Google search suggested that he wasn’t entirely correct. 

It is hard to keep motivated during university when you are just trying to learn and meet exemptions. However, I was fortunate to receive the Co-op Scholarship and had three placements at icare, Metlife and Finity. These placements gave me the opportunity to explore new applications as well as being trusted with a lot of responsibility. More importantly, my initial reservations about the profession were resolved through each of these workplaces as I had managers who took me under their wing and taught me what it means to be an actuary that works with integrity and makes an impact. I am indebted to their patience and belief in me. 

After university, I continued working at Finity and was involved in a wide range of projects within General Insurance and Data Analytics. I now spend the majority of my time pricing natural perils, climate and personal lines areas. I am most proud of co-authoring the Institute’s Green Paper on Home Insurance Affordability which allowed us to delve deeper into the socioeconomic impacts of climate change and the vulnerability of communities across Australia.

I hope to continue working to understand and improve the far-reaching social implications of our industry. 

 

Wanzhang Jing

I was playing social badminton the other day, when someone asked me – “so what do you do?” And I just stood there, thinking to myself – how does one explain all the diverse roles that defines an actuary?

Since high school, I’ve had my mind set on going down the actuarial path, but the profession as well as my journey has been far from what I had originally expected.

During my studies, I went on exchange to Wharton Business School, and was able to experience the amazing diversity of culture and knowledge there. I had the privilege to work on a few research projects at UNSW which showed me just how interesting and deep the actuarial field can get. Throughout university I volunteered with St John’s Ambulance and was able to meet so many wonderful people from all sorts of different fields.

My last two years at university saw me working part-time as an intern at IAG, working on a whole range of projects. They spanned from commercial price changes, technical modelling, pricing algorithms to systems integration which enabled me to see but a glimpse of the huge world that is general insurance.

I’m still there to this day, now as a Senior Pricing Analyst, working on various new and exciting projects. I greatly enjoy working with my fantastic and vibrant team to break problems down to their fundamentals and build solutions from the ground up. I believe that I still have a lot to learn, and certainly have a long road ahead of me, but I look forward to whatever the world has in store!

 

Read more I am an actuary profiles.

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