Interview with Nikita Prabhu - General Insurance Actuary
Ques 1: Why did you choose Actuarial Science as a career?
Ans: I came to know about Actuarial Science when I was in high school from my father who is an insurance agent. He showed me the Ready reckoner for premium rates and told me that ‘actuaries’ were behind the mathematics of it.I researched the profession and found it quite fascinating. I could apply the knowledge gained from the study of mathematics, statistics, economics, and finance to solve a range of real-world problems. It seemed highly rewarding.
Ques 2: How is it like to work in both consulting and core Insurance based company environments?
Ans: I was fortunate to start my career in consulting with Ernst & Young. Early on in my career, I got exposure to the different fields that actuaries work in, such as life insurance, employee benefits and general insurance. This initial experience aroused my curiosity towards general insurance (GI) and hence I chose to become a GI actuary.
In a consulting firm, you get the opportunity to work on different types of projects with different Indian and global clients. You develop an overview of the entire industry and work on a variety of technical concepts. You are expected to sharpen your soft skills and people skills continuously. You also develop time management skills since working in a consulting firm is rigorous.
Post EY, I decided to move to the GI industry and joined Universal Sompo GIC. Working in a core company sharpened my understanding of the business on the ground.
In a core insurance company, you understand the business first-hand and develop strong technical skills. You should also fully utilize the opportunity to interact with non-actuaries in other departments to get a holistic view of the business.
Ques 3: What are your roles and responsibilities in your current role so that our readers will know what type of work they will do once qualified?
1. Ans: I am currently leading the Pricing team at Universal Sompo GIC. This entails getting involved in the entire product pricing cycle - from product development to regulatory filing to tracking the performance of the portfolio.
2. I assist the Reserving & Reporting team to ensure accurate and timely regulatory submissions.
I am also helping in setting up a new Analytics department in the Company. We provide directional inputs to the management for a sustainable bottom line.
I have been fortunate enough to get exposure to most traditional as well as non-traditional areas that GI actuaries in India work on. Like most actuaries, a key part of my role requires successfully engaging with different internal and external stakeholders, such as Senior Management, Underwriting, Claims, IT, and Marketing teams, as well as the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).
Ques 4: If you want to hire a college graduate, what type of skills are you looking for in a candidate?
Ans: When hiring for an entry-level position, the main attributes I look for in an individual is their problem-solving ability and attitude.
The deciding factor is the candidate’s attitude towards learning & knowledge and their drive to invest in the same.
It is important to remember that no one knows everything or has an answer readily available. That is why, how one approaches the problem is something that I look for.
Knowledge of programming languages is a plus, and so are strong communication skills. But these can be developed with on-the-job training.
Ques 5: How did you manage your work-life-study balance while giving exams? What are the tips you can give to actuarial aspirants?
Ans: Although the journey of attaining fellowship is unique to everyone, here are my two cents basis my experience:
1. Persistence is the key. Be very selfish with your time and think of it as currency. For me, I would always have my notes on me all the time. Whenever I had some time to spare (which would mostly be my office commute), I would open my notes and just read through them (even if it is one page).
2. Gamify the process. The process of clearing so many papers can be quite arduous. Try to use different methods of learning to make it fun for yourself. For example, I used audio notes for CA1 since it requires some memorization.
3. Practice makes perfect. I would always practice a couple of papers under timed exam conditions and scrutinize my papers to assess my progress and mark the problem areas
4. Re-attempts can be scary but also rewarding. Whenever you fail, thoroughly analyze where you went wrong with the aim of learning something. If you do that, you have cracked half the code.
You may have to make sacrifices on the journey. But I would not recommend losing balance completely. In the long run, what you become as a person and keeping your loved ones close are what matter; the fellowship is a cherry on the top.
Ques 6: What’s your view on learning programming languages for actuarial students? Which one is your favourite and why?
Although I am familiar with software used in the actuarial industry, I have not yet picked up any programming language. I hope to learn one soon by implementing it in the course of my work.
Programming is now seen as a basic skill for not only actuarial science but a lot of other professions. It is always a plus to know one programming language as it is a transferable skill.
Ques 7: What kept you motivated throughout your actuarial journey and getting credentials i.e. FIA?
I think the biggest motivation was to attain the prestigious qualification of being a credentialed fellow actuary. I will use a quote to put it in perspective, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Like all of us actuarial aspirants out there, I had many motivators in my exam journey. Mostly it was the sheer enjoyment of learning something new. Sometimes, when times were tough, it was the support of my family. Sometimes I took it as a challenge against people who thought I could not do it.
Ques 8: Now that you have cleared your actuarial exams. What do you do in your free time?
I think the best thing about clearing all the actuarial exams is that there is more time to spend with your family and friends. Although I have qualified, I think the free time that I have has not increased much. Because as an actuary, the learning does not stop. However, now, I can explore more in terms of my learning options.
I have gladly been able to catch up on a lot of reading. I recommend actuarial aspirants to read ‘Sapiens’, it will help you broaden your perspective especially as a risk manager.
I have also been able to join the IFoA’s GI Asia Working Party group. The active volunteering experience has been gratifying as I am learning new things and interacting with senior actuaries.
I am reading more about the wider fields, especially climate change and ESG investing, and trying to understand how actuaries can become sustainability champions.
Ques 9: What will be the future of actuaries in the upcoming 5-10 years according to you?
As we go through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology will play a pivotal role in any organization. This is good news (for those ready to innovate) because this will push actuaries to add more value where decisions are being made.
To give an example: In general insurance, the main responsibility of an actuary is to set reserves and conduct business as usual. Today, general insurance actuaries are moving into different areas like analytics and adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). C-Suite of insurance companies is aware of the potent capabilities of actuaries and the value they deliver.
The biggest trend that we can already see is that many actuaries are not getting holed up in traditional fields like insurance and pensions. This is thanks to the initiatives of our actuarial institutes and the actuaries exploring new avenues. Special mention to the efforts of Late Mr. Mahidhara Davangere who pushed many young actuaries like me worldwide to explore the wider fields.
Note: If you are a qualified actuary and want to share your views. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org