The Associate Edition: A Journey of Risk, Strategy and Growth

In the latest edition of the Associate Edition, we chat to Gaurav Agrawal whose narrative extends far beyond mere calculations.

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

I am an easy-going and active person who likes to stay busy. I really enjoy networking and meeting new people – you will often see me talking in the corridors or kitchen at work.

In my day job, I lead the Risk Advisory function at MLC Life Insurance. I am passionate about enabling business strategy through practical risk management, leading a team that provides specialist risk advice to the business, executive management and Board.

Gaurav with his family

Outside work, I am a father, a best friend and an experimental subject to my almost five-year-old son. My wife and I spend most weekends running around after him and making the most of this fun age. My son and I love cars. We recently bought a Tesla and spend a lot of time finding things to ‘upgrade’, playing games on the screen, or washing it.

Can you share your journey in becoming an Associate actuary?

Like most actuaries, I joined the actuarial program at Macquarie University given my interest and proficiency in numbers. I quickly realised that the program was much broader than I had understood and encompassed a well-rounded view of business, statistics, economics, mathematics and accounting concepts.

This sparked my interest to think broader, and more strategically beyond the theory and modelling aspects of the course.

As all actuaries are risk managers, risk and strategy are two sides of the same coin. This propelled my interest in pursuing something beyond the numbers and I landed a graduate role at APRA where I was thrust into the world of corporate governance, strategy, and risk and capital management.

I really enjoyed my time at APRA, rotating through statistics, industry analysis and insurance risk teams before returning to a home in frontline supervision. I also completed the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) Program and became interested in pursuing a CERA designation, which had just begun to be offered by the Actuaries Institute at the time.

After a stint in the industry doing product, pricing, and research analysis at Rice Warner Actuaries, I moved into a Risk Consulting role with EY to pursue my risk management ambitions and qualified as an Associate and CERA.

Fellowship had always been an aspiration, but with the strong foundations I established through amazing vocational experiences and my FRM, CERA and AIAA training, I have been proud to own the Associate ‘Risk Actuary’ brand in my career journey to date.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an Associate?

The skills and education I have received in becoming an Associate and CERA have provided a solid foundation for my career, pushing me to think holistically and supporting my growth and development into broader strategic and leadership roles.

What advice would you give to those who are contemplating qualifying as an Associate?

Go for it! Until a few years ago, unless you were a Fellow, you could not use the ‘Actuary’ designation and there was no Associate qualification for non-Fellow actuaries to pursue.

However, as more and more actuaries utilise their skills in non-traditional and emerging roles, a qualification and designation is important to recognise their actuarial foundations, training and experience.

Being able to utilise the ‘Actuary’ designation has been a powerful conversation starter in business settings with senior stakeholders for me and represents a high standard of professionalism, credibility and influence on the wider business fields.

Gaurav at the 2023 Actuaries Institute Volunteer of the Year Awards where he won the Spirit of Volunteering Award.

How does being an Associate enhance your professional practice and development?

The Associate pathway (now Actuary Program) really sets you up to be a well-rounded, ethical, and professional individual. The technical Part 1 subjects (now known as the Foundation program), control cycle and professionalism course components of the program helped provide a fantastic foundation for me to approach career development opportunities.

It has also helped as a basis for me to consider both the technical and analytical, and governance and ethical perspectives to solving business problems.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned or the biggest influence on your career and why?

The most important lessons I’ve learnt are:

    1. Nothing is permanent – embrace the change. You never know where that next leap can take you; and
    2. If you don’t speak up, you can’t be heard! Raising your hand to volunteer, involving yourself in the discussion or presenting on a topic can help unlock your potential and give you a sense of accomplishment like no other.

What specific trends or technologies do you believe will shape the future of the actuarial profession in the next decade?

It would be remiss to not mention AI – there is so much potential for AI to shape all professions and our ways of working, including the actuarial profession. There will always be a role for considered, ethical and professional judgment to harness AI capabilities and mitigate risks such as bias, model drift and lack of accountability and transparency where actuaries can really make a difference.

The other trend, particularly observed through recent COVID-19 lockdowns, is the proliferation of entrepreneurship and side hustles.

Actuaries are critical-thinking and versatile professionals who can solve real-world problems using their unique skill sets. I expect to see a lot more actuaries venture into new and uncharted pursuits that make a significant impact on society, for example in health and medicine, sustainability (including climate change) and public policy.

If you could pick any superpower that would enhance your abilities as an actuary, what would it be and why?

Be fearless.

Sometimes we can be our own harshest critic and having deep technical training and a ‘get it right’ mindset brings strong analytical capability but can also place a lot of pressure on how we approach our roles and present ourselves.

Learning to fail, being OK with this process and harnessing the learnings could help unlock greater potential in our abilities to communicate, influence and lead in our chosen spheres.

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