Neeharika currently lives in Sydney, working at Ernst & Young in the banking and capital markets team within actuarial services. She has spent most of her life in Canberra where she studied for her exams at the Australian National University. She is a member of the Actuaries Institute (Australia).
Which actuarial fields are the most popular in Australia and why?
The most popular field is general insurance. While it is a relatively new field for actuaries - as compared to Life Insurance - it has grown very quickly and general insurance actuaries are in high demand.
Can you tell us a bit about the industry or market that you work in?
Working in banking and capital markets, we specialise in valuing complex derivatives and risk modelling.
More recently the work includes quantitative operational risk modelling, and renewable energy modelling.
What led you to choose to study for an actuarial qualification?
I wanted to pursue my love of statistics and finance.
Which of the actuarial exams do you consider the most difficult and why?
The Commercial Actuarial Practice (CAP) exam is probably the most difficult. This is an eight-hour exam which requires you to analyse a complex situation, model it and write a report. It aims to simulate a day at work, but it requires a lot of practice before the exam, so in my opinion, it is the most difficult exam.
In how many years do you expect to qualify?
I hope to qualify in two to three years.
What kind of support do students typically get in your company?
Study days which are generally between 10-12 per subject, and access to a shared drive with past students' materials.
Is there an actuarial student society in your area, and what kind of activities does it organise?
The Young Actuaries Program, run by the Actuaries Institute, organises seminars, workshops and discussion forums for young members to help with their careers.
What would you say are the 'hot' topics in your industry?
The hot topics include: The introduction of IFRS 13 - Fair Value Adjustment, credit valuation adjustments for derivatives contracts;
Operational Risk Model Validation; and
Enterprise Risk Management.
How are actuaries regarded in Australia?
Actuaries have a good reputation among the people who know what they do. However, most people still don't really understand what it is we do!
What are your views on the role of an actuary, both now and in the future?
I believe actuaries will become more involved in risk management, especially as enterprise risk management is becoming more popular with companies.
In the UK the skill set of an actuary is becoming recognised across many other disciplines, is this also true of the Australian market?
Yes, this is definitely true. In banking and capital markets, we work mostly in non-traditional industries such as risk management and providing advice to banks.
Data analytics and 'Big Data' are another two upcoming and rapidly developing industries, which actuaries are also becoming more involved in.
How would you describe a typical day at work?
Valuing derivatives, writing reports, some programming and obviously lots of Excel!
What were the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?
The most important influences have been friends and high school teachers. I had no idea what to study at university, but talking to my friends and teachers helped me to realise where I could pursue my passions.
Could you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals?
Immediate goals are to learn as much as possible and pass the actuarial exams. In the long term I haven't thought much about my goals yet, but possibly starting up my own firm.
What do you say when asked, "What is an actuary"?
Mostly I say that actuaries use statistical and analytic skills in insurance industries, helping with the pricing of premiums, even though this is very different to what I actually do.
How will you celebrate the day you qualify?
Celebrate with family, friends and colleagues and vow never to study again!
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