Carmen specialises in reinsurance pricing and optimisation of Casualty and Aviation business as well as having experience across Marine and Retro. In her prior role at Dynamo Analytics, she advised start-up Lloyd’s syndicates across the pricing, reserving and capital space with exposure to capital model validation and Solvency II. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and holds a BComm (Hons) in Actuarial Science from the University of Stellenbosch. Here, Carmen, the Divisional Director at Willis Re tells us a little bit more about her career as an actuary.
Learning from the past to solve today’s problems – in a nutshell, that’s what data analysts do. And while ours isn’t typically the most well-known profession, actuaries are considered to be the original data analysts.
I started my career as an actuary 8 years ago. My first job was at a small start-up actuarial consultancy – we were just 6 people in a tiny office when I first joined! After 5 years I decided to see what life was like at the other extreme and joined Willis Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance broking firms. This may come as a surprise, but insurance companies need to buy their own insurance, called reinsurance. They need this to protect themselves from the really big losses – think hurricanes, wildfires or commercial airline crashes.
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
When I was 17, my (in hindsight, extremely lazy) school career counsellor gave me a university catalogue to select a course from. It was a bit of a doorstop. The courses were listed in
alphabetical order and so I decided to save myself some time and just pick the first one – “actuarial science”. I’d never heard of actuaries before, as I’m sure most young adults haven’t either, unless they’ve decided to get an early start on their pension.
Thankfully this tactic worked out well (and of course I did some research on the subject first!). I’ve always enjoyed mathematics and statistics. This career path has allowed me to develop skills to solve complex problems using practical methods rooted in maths and stats. It’s certainly challenging, something I consider a huge plus.
Another attraction to the industry was the seemingly endless demand for actuarial skills – the UK has only 14,000 qualified actuaries. This creates two great benefits:
Career opportunities are abundant – I’ve been working in the industry for 8 years now and have already changed roles several times when I’ve felt ready to try something new
Pay is competitive as companies vie for these essential but rare skills
What is a ‘typical’ day like for you?
A typical day involves analysing data to understand the risks faced by our clients, and then figuring out how best to help them manage those risks. We design reinsurance cover that best suits each client’s size, nature of the insurance they sell, their financial strength etc. At Willis, we analysts work side by side with the brokers – we build analytical models and run the numbers while the brokers provide input on what can realistically be bought in the reinsurance market and at what price.
My daily job also involves developing the more junior members of the team and working on pitches to win new business.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The best parts of my job at Willis Re are:
- Working with a diverse team of talented people
- Opportunities to work on specialised projects outside of my day-to-day work
- Interacting with our clients, and seeing the value we create for them
- Winning business off our competitors!
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I’d like to help build a better relationship between the insurance industry and the public. Our clients are insurance companies, and by helping protect them against the risk of going bust, we are also protecting their policyholders, which includes both businesses and individuals. The industry has made some missteps in the past, and as a result the public perception of the insurance industry today isn’t fantastic. I’d really like to see that change, and help the public see the often-overlooked protection and empowerment that insurance provides to businesses and individuals alike.
What are the current challenges the industry faces?
We’re seeing an undeniable increase in the frequency and severity of natural catastrophes, and many (myself included) believe this is the result of climate change. Now more than ever, it is the responsibility of our industry to provide the protection the world needs against the financial consequences of these events.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Having a strong mathematical background will open many doors in this field. You don’t need to have studied actuarial science at university or sat any of the actuarial exams before joining the industry. However, employers will be scanning your CV for signs of analytical skills and that you perform well under exam conditions (you’ll have to sit a fair few exams to become a qualified actuary!) Any prior exposure to the (re)insurance industry before applying for positions will also be a major plus, so don’t be afraid to ask around to see if you’re able to find an internship or a chance to job shadow during university holidays. Just ask questions – curiosity is often rewarded.