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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Q&A: June Kim (Canada)


02 JULY 2015 | BY JUNE KIM


June Kim


I am a student actuary originally from South Korea, currently working at Manulife Financial in Toronto, Canada.

I am one of the very few actuaries from my region who have a business background. I majored in business at university, and worked for one of the Korean national banks for a couple of years. During that time, my mentor introduced me to the actuarial profession and I was fascinated. I decided to pursue a career as an actuary and enrolled at the University of Waterloo, Canada, to attain a masters in actuarial science.

My studies included human resource management, business strategies, marketing, management information science and, of course, finance. Perhaps because of my background, I do enjoy reading business books, which helps me gain a different perspective.


Which actuarial field do you specialise in? 

I specialise in life. I started working in the individual life insurance business and am currently in wealth business, which includes segregated funds, also known as variable annuities.


Why did you decide to study and work in this specific field?

I developed a strong interest in life contingency and quantitative risk management while taking courses while at the University of Waterloo. 

After working in individual life valuation for two years, I wanted to see the bigger picture, deepen my knowledge and enhance my analytical skills, while dealing with more complex products. To accomplish this, I rotated to a role within the segregated funds business. 

I am happy in my current role as it is very dynamic and allows me to deal with a variety of segregated funds business units around the world, with diverse products and clientele. This has helped me develop strong working relationships with a number of business partners within the company.


Which actuarial society are you a member of?

I am a member of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA).


Which actuarial fields are most dominant in your country and why? 

In Canada, the vast majority of actuaries work in a equal split between the life and pensions business.

 

Tell us a bit about the market that you work and study in?

My company is one of largest providers of wealth-oriented products with guarantees.Due to the embedded guarantees, it is critical to understand how changes in the external environment, for example, equity market movement and interest rate market movement can affect the business in order to set proper risk management strategies and reserving.


What kind of support do students get in your company?

My company operates an actuarial development programme, where members can take advantage of a number of benefits to assist with exams such as study days, and are able to rotate to new roles every two years in order to expand their interest in actuarial career options and deepen their knowledge. Rotation offers great career development opportunities since the company is a world- leading insurance company, and can offer a variety of roles.


Is there an actuarial student society in the area you work? If so, what kind of activities does it organise?

We have a well-known actuarial student society called the Actuarial Students National Association (ASNA) in Canada.

The organisation is run by students from universities all around Canada and is sponsored by the CIA and insurance companies, such as my own. 

The purpose of the association is to help actuarial students develop networks with professionals within the industry. The organisation holds an annual convention, which is attended by a number of business professionals eager to meet students and often search for potential employees.


Are you involved in any actuarial activities outside of your day job? If so, tell us about this activity and its benefits and challenges.

At present, I volunteer as a proctor at grading professional exams. I plan to be more actively involved with the professional organisations once I am fully qualified. 


What do you believe are the social and economic drivers for actuarial work in your region, for example, healthcare issues, pension issues, political change? 

In Canada, the primary concern for clients is saving enough funds for retirement. 

Canada has a strong public healthcare system, a sound political environment and a high standard of living, however the decline in defined benefit plans and the shift in investment risk to future pensioners, means greater demand for products that provide market upside potential, while providing some sort of protection from life and market risks.  


What’s the reputation of actuaries and the profession in your country? How does the professional body try to enhance their image?

The profession is well-respected. It is known as one that requires high standards. The SOA/CIA promotes the advancement of actuarial science through research and ensures that actuarial services provided by its members meet extremely high professional standards. 


What are your views on the role of an actuary in the market you work in now, and in the future?

The actuarial profession needs to grow with changing markets, client demands and financial theory. In the past, the actuary has been solidly regarded as having the right skillset for the work, however, there is emerging competition from other professions.   


In the UK, the skill set of an actuary is being recognised across many non-traditional disciplines, such as risk management and banking. Is this also true in Canada? 

I believe it is the same in the Canadian market too. The quantitative and analytical skillsets obtained from the actuarial profession are highly valued in non-traditional disciplines. There have been many actuaries that have transposed from their profession into non-traditional disciplines. 


What have been the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?

At the University of Waterloo, interaction with the brightest professors made me humble and forced me to work harder to achieve my goals. It has become a great foundation in developing my actuarial career. 

At my present company, I have had great mentors where I could share my thoughts and seek advice. Having diverse opinions from mentors helps me think from different perspectives in making career decisions.


Could you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals?

I am currently qualified as an Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA) and an Associate of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (ACIA).

My immediate goal is to become a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA), and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (FCIA).

I am hoping to attain fellowship early next year. For a longer term goal, I would like to specialise in roles that could be conducted from a whole corporate perspective, including risk management, asset liability management, and capital management.

 

What do you say when asked: “What is an actuary”?

An actuary puts a price tag on the future!


How will you celebrate the day you qualify?

I will probably save my celebration until I have a well-deserved post-exam vacation to France or Italy for a fun 'yay! Exams are done! Time to enjoy' break!