Under the Spotlight with the Microsoft Excel King, Andrew Ngai

From a math-savvy actuary to a triple-world Excel champion, discover how one professional’s knack for problem-solving propelled him to unexpected viral fame and a thriving YouTube presence.

Claiming the title for the third time, Andrew Ngai is proof that you can do data better with an actuary. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself (your background and your career path)?

I’ve always been interested in a career that utilises maths to solve real-world problems. This led me to choose a degree at UNSW in actuarial and maths/stats.

After graduation, I worked as an actuarial consultant at PwC, then at Willis Towers Watson (in London), and now I work at Taylor Fry. I’m grateful that during my career I’ve had the opportunity to work across a wide range of areas, such as injury schemes, builders warranty, social investment, and hospital funding.

Andrew smiling for the camera after winning for the third-year in a row.

Can you share your journey to becoming a triple-world champion in Microsoft Excel?

I first heard about an Excel competition in 2018 from my colleagues. Back then it was called the ‘ModelOff Financial Modelling World Championships’. I gave it a go and found that it was a fun combination of using my problem-solving and Excel skills, which have been growing stronger over the past decade, due to my everyday use of Excel.

A large part of my ‘training’ was simply my actuarial day job. However, when it came close to the competition, I also practised with past Excel competition cases to help familiarise myself with solving those sorts of problems – similar to how students do past papers when preparing for exams.

Aside from going viral, how has being crowned the King of Excel impacted you?

Going viral has a big impact in itself, but it’s also led to many flow-on effects. Now I would say that I’m used to doing media interviews and podcasts, sharing more about my journey.

I’ve even recently created my first YouTube video – these are all things I never imagined doing a few years ago!

Another big impact of the Excel World Championships is that it’s brought together a community of Excel enthusiasts worldwide. It was nice to meet everyone else in-person in Las Vegas last year and get to know the community outside of just competing.

Andrew with his fellow competitors.

What advice would you give to professionals and students who aspire to achieve proficiency in Excel?  

The most important thing is to have the mentality where you’re always trying to learn and improve.

Apart from the training I received at work, I learnt most of my Excel skills when I was unwilling to keep using an inefficient or messy spreadsheet, deciding instead to revamp it.

Having this mentality makes it easy to learn as you can find helpful material just by Googling or searching YouTube videos.

Of course, this method needs to be balanced against other priorities like urgent deadlines, but often it’s a worthwhile investment, especially for recurring work.

What has been the strangest/most outside-the-box challenge you’ve managed to solve using Excel?

That’s a tough question! There have been a lot of really creative cases throughout the history of the Excel World Championships, but these two are the most memorable:


Outside of the Excel competitions, another outside-the-box challenge would be when I created an Excel spreadsheet to help me win battles in Pokemon Go, by keeping track of Pokemon matchups, move effectiveness, energy generation, and so on.

How has your expertise in Excel influenced your career as an actuary?

The first point is probably obvious, but having strong Excel skills has helped me to do my work efficiently over the years.

However, beyond that, Excel has also been very useful in the non-analytical parts of my job, such as project management. There are many other systems or software that people use for these sorts of tasks, but I find it easier to just set up an Excel spreadsheet, especially nowadays where it’s easier for multiple people to edit at the same time, thanks to SharePoint.

Excel has also improved a lot over the past few years with the inclusion of dynamic arrays and new functions, making it more powerful than ever before.

Throughout my career, I’ve often had to decide whether to use Excel or a more sophisticated software package to do my analysis.

The decision usually comes down to whether Excel can handle the amount of data or complexity of the calculations and if it can, then I’ll stick with Excel.

Following your recent win, what are your future goals or projects? Are there any new challenges or areas of expertise you are aiming to explore?  

At the moment, it’s all still quite fresh and I’m still getting used to the extra publicity that came with this year’s win. I think I’ll just see how things evolve and take one step at a time, rather than making any grand plans right now.

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