The Associate Edition: Going Beyond the Title

In our newly launched series, ‘Associate Edition,’ we delve into the multifaceted lives of Associate actuaries, to understand more about associates and, more importantly, learn about the individuals who proudly carry the title.

In the first instalment of this series, we chat with Associate actuary Bianka Grange, whose initial career plan did not include insurance. Still, this is where life has led her and, like most actuaries, she has fallen in love with it.

Beyond the job title, who are you? We want to know the person behind the Associate! 

Bianka: I am a very loud and extroverted actuary who is usually laughing or trying to lift the mood.  I have had colleagues comment on hearing my laughter from another floor of the building and I’m always up for a chat. I’m very curious and always keen to learn new things – especially about people. The people in my life bring me so much joy and I’m always open to the opportunity of making new friends.

Bianka enjoying a day out with her family at Circular Quay, Sydney.

I’m also the mum of two small kids and wife to a husband who is constantly recovering from the multitude of changes I make around him.

When I’m not spending time with my family, I lead the Quantium Commercial Insurance practice area. I never thought I would be an “insurance person” but over the years I have found that, like most, I have fallen in love with it. 

What motivated you to pursue an actuarial career?

Bianka: My interest in becoming an actuary was piqued in high school when my maths teacher told me he almost became an actuary. 

I selected actuarial studies in my undergraduate years but, unfortunately, my first actuarial exam was a massive ego crusher and I almost quit.

However, during my first year of studying, I got the opportunity to see what it was like working as an actuary. The team was fun and energising, and they were working on projects that were interesting and aimed at helping people. Although the actuarial exam gave me a healthy dose of reality, I had a newfound determination to continue to pursue an actuarial career.

Once I received my Associate qualification, I started in general insurance valuation work, but my career trajectory moved me to technical pricing, business pricing, portfolio analytics and portfolio management. This move was largely driven by the people I worked with and the projects and opportunities that I found interesting. 

During this time, I enjoyed being free from study and figured I would eventually begin my fellowship qualification if I needed it. However, I quickly realised that I had the technical skills necessary for the kinds of roles and work that I wanted to pursue, so I decided to maintain my Associateship. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being an Associate?

Bianka: The most rewarding aspect of being an Associate is the skills and education I received in becoming an Associate. It has been the foundation of my career and supported my growth and development into broader roles and leadership.

How has being part of the Institute shaped your professional growth and future ambitions within the actuarial profession?

Bianka: When my career headed out of technical roles and into senior leadership, I wasn’t really engaged with the Institute. However, I have recently become reacquainted with the Institute and have made a conscious effort to be involved in the Institute’s — and profession’s — future.

I am the Co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, and I have found the Institute and its staff to be extremely supportive of my goals and ambitions within the profession.

The Institute is here for all members. There are great initiatives to be involved with, Insights Sessions to help with your professional growth and networking opportunities. If there is something you’d like the Institute to support, reach out and be the change you want to see.

What skills should Associates enhance to become more effective in your field of work? 

Bianka: I think Associates and Fellows alike should really hone their “human capabilities”. People are our stakeholders, including team members and colleagues, and sharpening our interpersonal skills will become increasingly important as ways of working change and technology continues to advance.

There was a great session at ICA2023 that outlined the need to invest time and effort in developing these skills. You can view the session and presentation here.

In what ways have you seen the role of Associate Actuaries evolve in response to changing industry trends, technological advancements or within the profession?

Bianka: I have seen the overarching role of actuaries evolve over time. The scope of opportunities for actuaries is growing, and Associates have responded to these trends by leveraging their technical capabilities and expanding into wider fields.  

In your experience, what are some challenges you’ve encountered as an Associate and how have you overcome them?

Bianka: More generally, I have found that I didn’t “fit the mould” of a stereotypical actuary. In hindsight, it may have been a subconscious factor in the career choices I made and my decision not to pursue the Fellowship qualification.

On the other hand, it has worked well for me as, in a sense, I broke the mould. It wasn’t easy, but I have learned to be comfortable with myself and not define myself by labels.

What advice would you give to those who are contemplating qualifying as an Associate or continuing to study towards Fellowship?  Are there any lessons you would like to share?

Bianka: Get involved in your communities – whether it’s professional or personal. Use your strengths to help you in whatever path you choose and, most importantly, don’t feel like you need to fit into any boxes to define your success.

Would you like to share your story? We’re inviting passionate Associates to be part of our new interview series. Whether you’re a seasoned actuary or starting out, this is a golden opportunity to shine a spotlight on your professional journey and insights. Register your interest here. 

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