Q&A: Sam L Mawoyo
Sam L Mawoyo is a student from Zimbabwe, working at African Actuarial Consultants in Harare
07 JULY 2016 | BY SAM L MAWOYO
I am from Zimbabwe but I did my A-levels in Derby, in the UK, and part of my university studies in Southampton. I am an avid football fan. To be precise, I am repeatedly heartbroken by Arsenal.
I enjoy travelling and sightseeing. I listen to a diverse set of music genres-from live acoustic and classical music to full on dubstep. My family is in construction and I am reasonably skilled at a few handy jobs like plastering and bricklaying. I think I am the ‘best tradesman actuarial student’ out there, assuming such a thing exists.
I specialise in non-life-general insurance. It was by coincidence that I decided on this field as I was randomly placed in that department after joining my employer. Fortunately, I really enjoyed the nature of the work and decided to specialise in it.
I am a student member of the IFoA.
I am also a member of the Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe.
Which actuarial fields are most dominant in Zimbabwe, and why?
Life insurance and employee benefits are most dominant here. These two areas have traditionally been supported by regulation, and participants have experience working with actuaries.
Actuaries made their foray into general insurance about four years ago but we still face a challenge in having our value appreciated beyond regulatory requirements. Changes in regulation are being mooted which should see greater actuarial involvement in other areas such as enterprise risk management.
Tell us a bit about the industry or market that you work in?
The general insurance market in Zimbabwe is growing marginally. This is by virtue of its correlation to the country’s overall economic activity which has been stagnant.
General insurance is very exciting. This is because of the diverse nature of activities that you deal with. This may be in conducting a business line performance analysis for a reinsurer or developing a new product.
General Insurance also develops a number of transferable skills which are useful in other areas.
What kind of support do students get in your company, and elsewhere in the market?
Within my company, there is a good level of support. We have a number of students nearing qualification who mentor younger students especially around navigating the CTs. I am a product of a company programme that assisted students without first degrees to get on the path to fellowship.
I and a partner of mine that benefited from this pathway are now nearing qualification and the company has recruited more students for this route. This is testament to the financial and structural support provided by the company for students.
The rest of the market varies. Stable companies provide reasonable support but there are also some instances of no support at all. The manner in which our economy is performing is leading companies to tighten their purse strings overall.
Are you involved in any actuarial activities outside of your day job? If so, tell us about this activity and its benefits and challenges?
I was elected to be a council member of the Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe and am an active member of The 400 Club of the IFOA. I am also part of the General Insurance Working Party and the Events and Publications Committee of the Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe.
It is most interesting to be an active contributor to the direction in which our profession is moving.
The Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe is going through a phase of rebuilding awareness of the need for actuaries in the economy. This is following the brain drain that occurred in Zimbabwe during the economic meltdown between 2000 and 2009.
However, the vast majority of our members are students and so have to prioritise exams above all else. The shortage of qualified actuaries is resulting in less students being mentored by qualified actuaries as is the norm in bigger markets.
Could you tell us about a challenging project you have worked on?
Using the skills from general insurance-capital modelling, I was involved in an exercise that involved projecting the demand for grain within the country over a given period. Our models were developed from first principles and we had to collect data and information from individuals who are not used to working with actuaries. Shaping our assumptions and presenting our results was an interesting process and we are glad that the users valued the actuarial skillset highly after the exercise.
What do you believe are the social and economic drivers for actuarial work in your region?
At the minute, pension issues are driving actuarial work. The conversion of values from the old Zimbabwe dollar to US dollars is being investigated as to whether it was done in a just manner.
Actuaries are involved in this process.
What is the reputation of actuaries and the professional body in your country? What kind of activities does the professional body engage in to promote the profession and its actuaries?
It is varied. Some professionals are not aware of the existence of actuaries, let alone what we do.
For the vast majority of people, actuaries are highly educated people although there is minimal knowledge of the work we do.
However, companies and individuals who have worked with actuaries generally have a high opinion of us and our skills.
How do you see the role of an actuary evolving in the future – can you see actuaries working outside their traditional sectors?
I do expect actuaries to work outside of their traditional areas especially in developing countries.
Risk exists outside of insurance and employee benefits. This may be risk that creates opportunities and risk that threatens existence. The actuarial skillset allows actuaries to work in all such environments.
How often and in what way do you use social media? How does it help your professional work as an actuary?
I am active on social media. I have networked with actuaries across the world especially on Twitter and Linkedin. Social media has also been incredibly helpful as I am not restricted by geography in finding mentors.
For challenges that I face and cannot solve, I have an option to message someone on the other side of the world and get a quick response. This may be in preparing for an exam or learning about new software.
What have been the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?
I have been influenced by my personal ambitions to leave a legacy of note. I have also had to adapt to various unorthodox situations. Take for example, moving to work in Zimbabwe because finding an actuarial role in the UK without first having a degree was proving to be impossible.
Could you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals?
My immediate goals are to qualify and start working towards being a strategic business professional. In the long term, I will open a financial institution and grow it into a global giant.
What do you say when asked, “What is an actuary”?
A business professional that works with organisations to identify opportunities and manage threats to the organisation’s mission and vision.
How will you celebrate the day you qualify?
I have not put much thought into it but my girlfriend seems to be getting her voice ready for the most high-pitched ululation in history!