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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Q&A: Wee Phin Yap (Malaysia)


Wee Phin Yap

I graduated from Heriot-Watt university, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and have worked for two years in the United Kingdom.

I recently returned home to Malaysia to be closer to my family, and am currently working for Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad, Kuala Lumpur. I am in the reporting team where my job scope lies largely in statutory risk based capital reporting.

My interests involve weightlifting and eating.

Which actuarial field do you specialise in?

The life industry.

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

Initially, when I enrolled onto an A-level course, I wanted to be an engineer; then I found out that many of the other students wanted to be engineers too, and it was too mainstream, so I looked for another career I could pursue.

After doing some research and talking to people, I heard about actuarial science and found the job scope to be very interesting. I was also told that actuaries are paid well, and it’s a relatively specialised profession, so I enrolled. I soon realised that people had focused too much on the salary rather than the exams involved.

Which actuarial society are you a member of?

Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, UK.

Which actuarial fields are most dominant in Malaysia and why?

Life and takaful insurance, since the majority of Malaysians are Muslims and there is demand for Sharia compliant products.

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

Currently, Malaysians are generally under-insured or not insured, and there is a lack of understanding of insurance products by the general public. However, as the country develops and the middle-working class population grows, there will be an increase in financial awareness. This will create a lot of potential growth in the Malaysian market. 

What kind of support do students get in your company?

Students get the standard exam study leave and exam fee reimbursement. This is quite usual among insurers, with varying number of study days.

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

There are no specific societies for actuarial students in Malaysia, but there is the Actuarial Society Malaysia (ASM). They organise get-togethers such as movie nights, as well as talks and training.

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

The ever-increasing cost for healthcare and an increase in education and financial awareness would be the key drivers.

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

Generally, actuaries are seen as walking calculators and spreadsheets rather than actuaries – risk managers and problem solvers.

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

Currently, actuaries are mostly found working in insurance companies. As the business environment develops, there will be an increase in the need for risk management and data analysis in order to perform well in any industry. Actuaries will play the role of incorporating these practices into the businesses as they join them, or as consultants.

In the UK, the skill set of an actuary is being recognised across many non-traditional disciplines. Is this true of the market you work in?

Speaking from my company’s perspective, there is a growing number of actuaries who are moving out from the actuarial department into other departments such as risk management, claims management, product development and marketing.

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

Definitely the people that I have worked with. The level of understanding of risk, and the problem-solving skills that they exhibit inspires me to continuously improve and challenge myself.

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

My immediate goal is to qualify as an actuary. My long term goal would be to use the skills I have obtained as I progress through my career to lead businesses and organisations.

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

An actuary is capable of making sense of something when no one else can.

How will you celebrate the day you qualify?

I will take the day off work (if it’s a working day), travel back home to my hometown, and take my parents and grandparents out for a nice meal at a fancy restaurant.