‘During my time at university… I realised I had more numerical than mathematical ability. Therefore, the more statistical and numerical nature of the actuarial studies and work appealed to my academic strengths.’ – Gajan Sivarajah, a Senior Actuarial Associate from APR talks us through his actuarial career so far.
I’ve worked within actuarial consultancies since 2010, having completed a Mathematics degree at Imperial College London. My involvement has been predominately in the Life Insurance sector spanning a range of areas. I qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in 2013.
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I had an interest in Finance even prior to attending University. On speaking to an industry representative at a Careers Fair in 2008 at my university, an actuarial career appeared to be an excellent fit for my skills and aspirations.
During my time at university studying Mathematics, I found that I was more inclined towards Statistics. In addition, having struggled with the more abstract nature of Pure Mathematics, I realised I had more numerical than mathematical ability. Therefore, the more statistical and numerical nature of the actuarial studies and work appealed to my academic strengths.
From a personal perspective, I spent my childhood observing my father working seven days a week to provide my sister and me with the best possible opportunities. Hence the combination of a desirable work life balance and relatively high remuneration appealed to me.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Having worked exclusively for consultancies, I’ve always enjoyed the sheer variety of work available. My current firm, APR LLP, is a small consultancy that specialises in providing interim resources and, more recently, has started consulting on smaller projects. For example, the projects I’ve worked on have ranged from Capital Modelling to Bulk Annuity Pricing.
Problem solving has always stimulated me. The projects at APR usually involve building solutions to issues that our clients are facing. Additionally, there is a high degree of technical responsibility and autonomy afforded to those at my level on consulting projects.
APR encourages a wide range of career paths and their pool of qualified actuaries demonstrates that. On one side, qualifying at APR enables those who wish to join the leadership of the business; alternatively, for those solely focused on actuarial client projects, you can work in a very similar way to an actuarial contractor, while still being able to draw on APR’s client contacts, support structures and technical resources. I enjoy the flexibility allowed for by the choices on offer.
What are the current challenges the industry faces?
The current Covid-19 crisis that is gripping the world will provide both challenges and opportunities. While not to understate the obvious difficulties this is causing to families, communities and businesses, on the more positive side I believe that the necessary move already made to mass remote working may provide an opportunity for companies to rethink their approach and potentially save cost on office space. One might even hope there will be a longer-term benefit in terms of a reduction in the amount of business travel people do, and so a smaller carbon footprint.
Responsibly embracing the technological advancements made in other industries will provide a challenge for the industry. Artificial Intelligence and Automation provide methods to improve efficiency within various roles. For example, conducting a mortality investigation using a form of machine learning could save days of work.
However, in comparison with Technology and other industries, the Insurance sector is much more heavily regulated. There is an emphasis on understanding risks and the relationships between them. Hence, black-box algorithms that automatically refit risk models and hide the underlying relationships between variables will not suffice.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
I’d suggest attempting to research widely about what an actuarial career involves. The research could include browsing various sections of the actuarial profession website, attending university Careers Fairs and applying for internships and work experience.
Whilst there is a natural inclination to impress interviewers during an application process, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to learn about the profession and the prospective company. APR’s unique application process made a really strong initial impression on me – the assessment test had clearly been carefully written and was very challenging. The excellent quality of staff and the reputation amongst clients also acted as a testament to APR’s dedication to recruitment.
There is a plethora of advice and opinion about the daunting nature of the actuarial exams. Having completed the exams, I believe the key differentiating factor is the student’s preparation. The exams are challenging but every student who has the academic qualifications necessary to join the profession has already proven themselves intellectually capable of passing every exam.