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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Q&A: Pieter Tjerkstra (The Netherlands)


02 JULY 2015 | BY PIETER TJERKSTRA


Pieter Tjerkstra


I was born and live in The Netherlands, and currently work for ASR, Utrecht, as a non-life pricing actuary. I am a Dutch econometrician, and have studied in Groningen – a student town in the northern part of The Netherlands.

Besides doing fancy calculations, I like to ride my racing bike. I prefer riding in the hills – some are actually called mountains by the Dutch – but since the area around Amsterdam is pretty flat, I am limited to riding against the wind.


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

The application of statistics in the non-life field appeals to me. Pricing, in particular, is a wonderful application of statistics in business.


Which actuarial society are you amember of? 

I am a member of the Royal Dutch Actuarial association, the ‘Koninklijk Actuarieel Genootschap’.


Which actuarial fields are most dominant in the Netherlands and why? 

Due to the large defined benefit pension funds in the Netherlands, a lot of actuaries are working in pensions. There is some consolidation going on in the pension sector, so there is a shift in movement over to non-life.


Tell us a bit about the market you work in?

Since early June I have been working as a pricing actuary at Ditzo, a direct writer for personal insurance. Based on statistical analysis I set the premiums in cooperation with the marketing department. Before that, I worked as an actuarial advisor for the Dutch Ernst & Young practice, advising all kinds of Dutch non-life and disability insurance companies.


What kind of support do students get in your company?

My employer generally supports my studies in order to become a qualified actuary. Alongside that there is a talent development programme in place, providing a lot of soft skill training.


Is there an actuarial student society in the area where you work? What kind of activities does it organise?

During my time at University I was a member of the econometric study association ‘VESTING’. All kinds of social and formal activities were organised for and by students.The activities provided the opportunity to get to know the other students, as well as become familiar with career paths and opportunities. 

During my study time I was active as a board member of the study association, which was a wonderful experience.


What do you believe are the social and economic drivers for actuarial work in The Netherlands?

That is a difficult question. My personal driver is to be insightful. Discussions in the current field are healthcare costs, low interest rates, solidarity in pensions and big data in insurance.


What is the reputation of actuaries and the profession in the Netherlands? How does the professional body enhance their image?

I think the majority of the Dutch population do not know what actuaries do. A small proportion think that actuaries are intelligent boys and girls. The professional body tries to enhance the image by training and thought leadership publications.


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

Currently actuaries mainly work on reports required by their supervisor. Due to the increase in the amount of available data, I think actuaries are becoming more like data analysts – my recent job shift makes me a perfect example of this.

 

In the UK the skill set of an actuary is being recognised across many non-traditional disciplines. Is this also true of The Netherlands? 

There is a similar trend going on, the new actuary is called the Actuary 2.0. The market demands not only technical skills but also the ability to explain results, and to collaborate with non-actuarial personnel. 


What were the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?

My passion for maths and statistics made me want to become an actuary. I started in an advisory role to get a broad view on the possibilities within in the market. I then moved towards pricing as a direct writer. The vast amounts of data available are like a playground to me.

 

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

My immediate goal is to obtain more insight by analysing the available data. In the future I would like to manage a team of actuaries.


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

I ask: “What do you think it is?”. When I finish laughing at the funny answers, I tell them that an actuary is a mathematician in insurance and pensions.


How did you celebrate the day you qualified?

I celebrated with a dinner with my parents after the ceremony, then met up with my fellow students to explore Amsterdam.