A Chat with a Future Actuary

What does being an Actuary involve?

We are looking at the financial impact that risk will have on a business. It requires using a lot of maths, statistics and business knowledge. At Sovereign, we are in the insurance industry, so our job involves evaluating the pricing of insurance policies and calculating how much they are worth to the company. I’m personally involved in the Model Development Team – we work on creating mathematical models using different kinds of software to get a better understanding of the business’s value. Becoming an Actuary also involves sitting a lot of exams – it can be a long process, taking a minimum of 5 years to be fully qualified. When I entered the workforce you couldn’t do Actuarial courses at Uni; in New Zealand typically you will work in the area and do the exams as you go.

How does it differ from other roles such as accounting or financial analysts?

Accounting looks a lot at what has happened in the past, the history and current position of the company; whereas as actuaries, we look at the history to estimate a futuristic view of the company. We have to deal with a lot more uncertainty, so it is a lot harder to provide accurate predictions.

How did you get to where you are today? Did you know where you wanted to go from school?

No! I went to a small high school, where business papers like accounting weren’t available. Because I was good at science and maths, I was told to go and be an engineer – which is what I did. I studied chemical and process engineering at Uni, but when I finished my degree I realized I was more interested in the business side than the technical, so I completed my Masters of Business last year. Once I finished that, I knew I didn’t want to be an engineer, but I didn’t know what else I could do. A friend of my Mum recommended I look into actuarial work, and I discovered a lot of the skills you learn in engineering were very transferrable to it, and it included the business element that I was interested in.

What is one of the best things about working at Sovereign?

I do enjoy the work that I’m doing, but outside of that I really enjoy the team activities. We recently had a volunteer day, where one day a year we all get to go out and do something in the community. We went to Waiheke and spent the day gardening for a not-for-profit company and it was a lot of fun to get out of the office. There is a good culture here, everyone gets involved in company-wide and team activities... which includes things like going out to celebrate when we pass exams, etc.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Hmm... I’m not really sure. I’m only 8 months into the role, so I am still just trying to learn and absorb as much as I can. I’m hoping I will be a fully qualified actuary before I turn 30, and in the meantime, I guess I will just see what opportunities come up and make sure I make the most of them!

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone considering becoming an Actuary, or is perhaps interested in maths, statistics, and economics, etc.?

Be very open-minded to what is out there, and be open to learning a lot. Becoming an Actuary requires a lot of dedication and learning, but it is a really satisfying combination of both business and mathematical skills.