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Four actuaries from South-East Asia tell their story

Four actuaries in South-East Asia tell us what inspired them to take on this challenging career and what they enjoy about being an actuary.

Chris Lim Shen: Senior Analyst, Singapore

Works for: JLT Re

Chris Lim ShenWhy did you decide to become an actuary?

Analytics is becoming increasingly central to the insurance business and insightful analytics advice often forms a cornerstone of successful insurance placement. My first role at JLT Re was a catastrophe analyst, modelling natural catastrophe exposures. I had to understand natural hazard risks, modelling techniques and model sensitivities, as well as insurance market practices. As during my role, I had a keen interest to gain further exposure in risk quantification and be more involved in the business aspects of insurance so becoming an actuary became a natural progression for me.

What do you enjoy in your role?

I work in a small team in a reinsurance broker and the scope of work can be very diverse. Given the backdrop of maturity in the data science field, the increasing sophistication of the insurance industry in Asia, and the shifting insurance regulatory regimes in the region, it is clearly an exciting time to be an actuary. I enjoy making sense of numbers, applying novel ways of solving problems, and the client-facing element as that requires me to put forward analytical advice and recommendations.

What advice would you give to students who are just about to embark on their career as an actuary?

The William Bruce Cameron quote, 'not everything that counts can be counted…” is especially true for actuaries. Actuaries spend a lot of time exploring data, crunching numbers and performing analyses. However, we function best when these are coupled with a broad (qualitative) understanding of their companies, clients and industries. The ability to deliver insightful and well-structured analyses is more important than ever in a world where we have so much data.

E-Lynn Tan: Assistant Manager, Financial Risk Management and Risk Assurance Services, Malaysia

Works for: PricewaterhouseCoopers 

E-Lynn TanWhy did you decide to become an actuary?

I've always had a passion for numbers and the stories that a simple set of figures might be able to tell. Being an actuary gives me an opportunity to have a clearer understanding of different industries and how the various elements within it are interrelated.

What do you enjoy in your role?

In this role, there has never been a dull day as there are various projects that I have been placed on. From these experiences, I have been able to learn a variety of new skills as well as further develop knowledge I already have. Besides that, being able to meet different people, be it clients or even colleagues, is another perk of this job.

What advice would you give to students who are just about to embark on their career as an actuary?

Always stay passionate in this journey you are about to embark on. It will be trying at times and require a lot of hard work, but with passion you will achieve your goal.

Albertus Teddy Setiadi: Director, Business Development Actuary, Singapore

Works for: Reinsurance Group of America (RGA)

Albertus Teddy SetiadiWhy did you decide to become an actuary?

My high school teacher, whose wife works as a manager of operations in a life insurance company, introduced me to the profession.

It promised decent pay and an ability to play a central role in managing the insurance industry by combining mathematical / statistical skills with business acumen.

As a young high school graduate who loves mathematics, the idea intrigued me and led me to pursue an actuarial course at university.

What do you enjoy in your role?

I enjoy getting exposure to strategic overviews in running both reinsurance and insurance business. This comes from various sales meetings with both senior internal and external stakeholders. It gives me insight on dynamic challenges in managing and running a successful company. Something I hope will be a handy skill one day in running my very own business.

I personally enjoy developing a positive working relationship with my clients. It gives me positive motivation when I am able to solve their problems and as a result, become their "first-to-go-to" contact. This makes my work feel more meaningful.

I also enjoy the opportunity to apply my technical actuarial skills to creatively deliver innovative solutions for my clients whilst ensuring robust risk management practice. I feel a sense of personal pride when I see this solution being applied and delivering meaningful value to the client, distribution channel and policyholders. Of course, in doing so, I enjoy being supported and working alongside my helpful colleagues from actuarial pricing, product development and underwriting departments.

What advice do you give to students who are just about to embark on their career as an actuary?

Keep your eyes on the end reward and use that as a drive to complete the exams. Personally, the reward that my high school teacher mentioned came true with a lot of other upsides as well, such as a sense of personal pride and satisfaction. I could only wonder what other exciting opportunities the career might bring given the role of ‘the actuary’ is likely to expand.

Charlotte Man Yin Shan: Senior Executive, Actuarial Pricing, Singapore

Works for: Prudential Assurance Company Singapore

Why did you decide to become an actuary?

During high school, my ambition was to become a doctor or a pharmacist. It was a popular choice among my fellow classmates. When I was studying A Levels in college, I came across this term – Actuarial Science - it was something new. All that we knew about this course was that it involves risk calculation, statistical analytics and probability simulation. I thought it was quite cool and challenging, so I did more research and then I became really interested. So, I embarked on my study of actuarial science at Heriot-Watt University, Scotland. In May 2015, I graduated with a first class honours degree and with eight full exemptions from the IFoA’s exams.

What do you enjoy in your role?

I started my career as a fresh graduate in the Prudential Assurance Company Singapore. My main portfolio is group business pricing and I have dealt with all kinds of tailor-made group business quotations. Most of the time, we have to ensure the competitiveness of our pricing, while making sure that it passes the financial requirement set by the Company and also Regulators. What I enjoy most in my role is that I can interact with different stakeholders and learn what part each role plays. As an actuarial graduate, I felt accomplished that we could use our strong numerical sense and fundamental analytical skills to add value to the whole organisation.

What advice would you give to students who are just about to embark on their career as an actuary?

Data science is emerging and the importance of the actuary will also continue to grow in this era as while the robot helps you to do the ground work you will still need expert judgement. So, if you think actuarial science is something for you, do it and don’t be afraid! Last but not least, one cannot deny the fact that an actuary can have both a personally rewarding and a well-paid career!

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