Chehak Jain is working as Senior Actuarial Analyst at XL Group. During our conversation, she shared her views about the role played by an actuary and how one can reach his/her maximum potential. Below is an edited excerpt of the same.
Q. What role do you play as Senior Actuarial Analyst?
My work revolves around setting the Solvency II technical provisions. These are insurance regulatory norms due to be adopted in 2016 for all insurance companies of the European Union. These guidelines are different from the current GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) in a number of ways.
Q. What attracted you into actuarial science?
It is a very niche and challenging profession.Different subjects of actuarial science cover a variety of topics such as annuities in CT1,hypothesis testing in CT3, life and health insurance in CT5, economics in CT7 etc. After clearing 15 papers you have so much of knowledge that your whole outlook changes.Moreover, no other profession is dealing with the uncertainties in the future and talking about it today. The vast amount of knowledge offered by this course is what kept me interested in this profession.
Q. Why did you opt for economics in graduation being a science student? How did you manage your time between college and Actuarial papers?
I opted for BBE because I didn’t want to take up physics and chemistry for my honors degree. Economics is something really interesting. People can study and have the aptitude for that and sometimes it comes naturally. So, may be it came naturally to me.I have maintained a good balance between college and Actuarial Science. I never neglected my college to excel in Actuarial exams. I had a very good attendance there and I ensured that if I am studying in college or preparing for my actuarial exams, then I am putting my best efforts towards what is in front of me. You get 24 hours in a day in which you have to do a lot of work like studying, eating, sleeping, a job or some classes & many more things. Out of these 24 hours you can have at the most 3 hours for yourself. What you need to do is to divide the work accordingly. Like today I will go out and meet my friends in these 3 hours, tomorrow I will study for my Actuarial exams and the next day I will study for my college in those 3 hours. But enjoy the work you are currently doing instead of worrying about the other work you have to do. In short, discipline and planning makes you better at managing your time.
Q.What should be the optimum hierarchy of choosing Actuarial exams according to you?How are practical exams like CT9,CA2 & CA3 different from the theory exams?
Well, it depends on the academic background and interest of the students. Starting from CT series, people from economics background can give CT7 first. Likewise, people from Mathematics & Statistics background can give CT1 or CT3 first. It’s advisable to give CT3 before CT6 and CT1 before CT5 because these exams require some prerequisite knowledge of previous exams. Similarly, CT-8 may be done after CT4 & CT7. After CT series, you can go for CA series as well as ST series. If you have decided that in which sector you want to work in, then you can go for specialization under ST series before CA series. Again, the SA exam may be given any time after the CT series but students usually give it at the end.
Now, since Actuarial is not just about the number crunching you need to be aware of the surroundings. You need to work in teams. CT9-Business Awareness is designed in such a way that you can understand your professional responsibilities and there are team development activities to develop your teamwork skills. So, practical exams play a significant role in development of an Actuary.
Unless and until you cannot explain the role of an Actuary to a non-technical person you cannot become a good Actuary. So communication is a very important aspect of an Actuary covered in CA3 which tests whether you can explain the complex terminologies and ideas to a non-technical audience or not. CA2 is model documentation,analysis and reporting. Since the actuaries are dealing with the quantification of the risk, you need to have a certain thought process and document the model you have made. Suppose, I leave a company and might not get an
opportunity to meet the new employee taking my position, then he/she needs the knowledge of understanding model documentation to resume my incomplete work, which is covered under CA2.
Q. Is post-graduation important for an actuary or good graduation course with actuarial exams and technical competency more important?
It solely depends on the interest of an individual. Just after graduation you may pursue several post-graduation programs in Actuarial Science but currently most of them are not accredited to IAI. Doing masters itself requires a lot of hardwork, on the other hand you also need to focus on clearing actuarial exams. Managing both the things together can be a cumbersome process, so it should be clear in your mind what you really want to pursue. For becoming a Fellow Actuary you need a certain amount of experience and technical skill set, which you can only acquire while doing a job not in post-graduation. A fully qualified actuary is a strong qualification in itself, which does not require anything else. But after getting a substantial experience, one may pursue management related courses to enhance their management skills
Q. What advice do you give to the student actuaries who are about to start their career in Actuarial Science?
Plan your exams carefully and do not neglect your college at all. Both are important at end of the day. Also, try to learn some IT skills like Excel & VBA with your actuarial exams so that you can practice the concepts learned in actuarial exams in these software. Apart from IT skills, improve your communication skills as it will be the first thing that recruiters will judge about you. Then I must say that you should have a command over the concepts you have learned in Actuarial exams and you should try to know how you can imply those concepts in real life scenarios. You should ask as many questions as you can from your mentor or any senior so that you would be prepared for anything that comes in your way.