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Q&A: Edwin Puso Afitile

Edwin Puso Afitile is a student from Botswana working at Deloitte, Johannesburg, South Africa

07 JULY 2016 | BY EDWIN PUSO AFITILE


Edwin Afitile
I was born in a small village called Molepolole in Botswana but now live and work in Johannesburg, South Africa. I previously worked in the capital and risk team of a bancassurer and have just recently joined Deloitte Actuarial Insurance Solutions.

I am a diehard fan of Township Rollers F.C. from the Premier League in Botswana. In international football, I am a Real Madrid fan. I often feel uplifted by helping others whenever I can, and I consider altruism a primary human virtue.

Apart from that, I am Orthodox Christian; Old Apostolic Church.

I specialise in finance fellowship, and have worked in risk and capital management in life. I have just started working in life insurance consulting.

I decided to work in this field because when I was 15, a friend of mine said there were a lot of books to read and the training is mainly self-study. I got hooked.

I am a member of the IFoA and the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA).

Which actuarial fields are most dominant in Botswana, and why?
Life insurance, as most of the biggest employers are life insurers.

Tell us a bit about the market you work and study in?
Consulting is great, it’s like engineering, you have the opportunity to get your hands dirty.

I like working with a problem from beginning to end. It is also very client-focused – you have to keep in mind the other person and do the best for them. It’s also partly academic; you are forced to develop insight – no shortcuts. The nature of the work is very unpredictable and varied since clients can seek help with anything, you never stop learning.

In life insurance, there is also more emphasis on complying with the SAM regime (Solvency II equivalent). On the other hand, the increasing clarity of reporting within the SAM regime has dramatically improved our communication. A senior management person can understand the real financial risks an organisation is taking and the effects of their aggregation. This is the triumph of risk management.

What kind of support do students get in your company, and elsewhere in the market?
A lot of support, from motivation to exam fees and study leave. The study leave at Deloitte is more generous compared to the market average, I would say.

Are you involved in any actuarial activities outside of your day job? If so, tell us about this activity and its benefits or challenges?
I am a member of the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s committee on Private Equity, Venture Capital, Infrastructure and Government Projects (PE, VC, I&GP).

This is a very interesting, relatively new committee; you get to apply your skills outside the norm. The other volunteering work I do is help to organise Botswana’s
First Convention on Finance and Risk Management. The main benefit is the marketing of the profession to people who need our skills the most.

Could you tell us about a challenging project you have worked on?
I took the lead in an exercise at my previous employer on ‘Assessing the effectiveness of a hedging strategy’. Following the review, we considered applying basic replication strategies to see how we can eliminate shortfall risk in matching guaranteed liabilities, subject to the CRO’s requirement to ensure our solution is ‘effective’.

There is still room for growth in asset liability modelling, and the use of structured finance products is an area we should all consider.

I am currently writing a research paper for publication in this area and will hopefully present at the ASSA convention in November. 

What do you believe are the social and economic drivers for actuarial work in your region?
Post-recession regulation; companies currently have to meet the regulatory requirements of capitalising their book in the SAM & Basel regimes without choking innovation.

On the other hand, the National Health Insurance white paper has recently been published and is currently under scrutiny from Healthcare practitioners. The NHI is a system based on a risk-pooling model to ensure Universal Health Coverage for all South Africans. Another topical issue is the retirement reform proposals that have been put on hold for two years. These reforms relate to the requirement to purchase an annuity at retirement for provident
fund members.

What is the reputation of actuaries and the professional body in Botswana? What kind of activities does the professional body engage in to promote the profession?
The reputation of actuaries in South Africa is very good, most people who know about it know that the exams are very difficult.

ASSA does a lot to promote the image and role of actuaries for example facilitating members’ volunteering for awareness programmes at schools as well as
building relationships with non-actuaries and their associations such as CFA South Africa. A reciprocal arrangement exists whereby members of ASSA are invited to CFA
South Africa presentations, and members of CFA South Africa are invited to relevant sessional meetings of the Society.

How do you see the role of an actuary evolving in the future – can you see actuaries working outside their traditional sectors?
In the next few years the market for actuaries will become crowded and they will be forced to look outside their usual areas of practice to those such as agriculture, manufacturing and mining.

I see consulting actuaries doing very well here since they are used to variety and uncertainty.

How often and in what way do you use social media? How can it help your professional work as an actuary?
I have a Facebook account and a Twitter handle and I use them for personal purposes. When used well, social media can help in the marketing of products.

What have been the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?
I first heard about actuarial science from a friend called Thabiso Motshedi, he was very keen on life-long learning. I had to convince the government to give me a bursary for my studies. I also had to convince my mother that I did not want to become a medical doctor. I remember running to a high-priest to intervene in our disagreement.

My move to consulting was partly inspired by my supervisor for the research work I am doing in quantitative finance. The specific move to Deloitte was inspired by the Deloitte reviewers who I had worked with before.

Could you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals?
My long term goal is to reach out and give back to Africa through the skills I have learnt through actuarial science. However, I would like to see more actuaries applying their skills to solve uncommon problems like helping the governments establish a national risk management function. This can only happen if we market these skills and compete outside the profession.

We need to create a platform to integrate with other people, build relationships and maintain them.

What do you say when asked, “What is an actuary”?
I often say that an actuary is a professional trained in a variety of numerate disciplines who uses their skills to make financial and risk management decisions.

How will you celebrate the day you qualify?
I will boil my notes from the CA3 exam (the only exam left to attain FIA/FFA,FASSA and CERA) and drink the water!

Edwin Puso Afitile is a student from Botswana working at Deloitte, Johannesburg, South Africa