Globetrotter - July 2017
Where did you start your actuarial career?
I grew up in Malaysia, but studied in the US and worked there for a year before moving to London to start my actuarial career.
I started working at Pacific Life Re in 2008, where I was based in the London office. In the four years I was there, I worked on both the longevity and protection portfolios.
I have worked in the life reinsurance market for nearly 10 years now and have worked in Pacific Life Re offices in London, Toronto and then Singapore.
Working in different offices has given me the opportunity to meet great people, build strong relationships, learn to adapt to new environments, and experience different cultures.
I also believe my experiences to date have given me a unique understanding of the reinsurance market around the world.
How long have you been an actuary for?
I have been a qualified actuary for seven years.
What made you decide to be an actuary?
For as long as I can remember, I've always liked working with numbers and problem solving, so it made sense for me to choose actuarial science as a major. Furthermore, it was a relatively new field in Malaysia, and I could see myself adding value to the industry.
What do you think is the most valuable skill an actuary can have?
Critical thinking and, at the same time, the ability to communicate effectively to a non-technical audience.
What do you enjoy most about being an actuary?
I enjoy getting exposure to almost all aspects of the insurance and reinsurance business - and not just actuarial-related matters. For example, we get involved in strategic discussions, client management, and more.
Why did you decide to move from London to the Toronto office?
When the office in Toronto was acquired by Pacific Life Re in 2011, I was presented with an opportunity to join the team. I challenged myself to take up that role as it was a new market for us, and I was excited to expand my knowledge and experience. However, I knew that ultimately I would want to come back to Asia as it is closer to home. But before that could happen, I felt that I owed it to myself to try my hand at working in various markets first.
After two years in Toronto, why did you decide to move to Singapore?
I wanted to stay in Toronto a little longer as I really enjoyed working with the people there. Having been away from home for a long time, the folks in Toronto are pretty much my second family. It was hard to give it all up (including the month-long farewell outings). However, there was a need for my role in Singapore at the time and so here I am!
What would you recommend to anyone who's considering moving overseas with their job and having an international career?
Do it. Well, of course weigh the opportunity objectively, but from my experience the exposure is invaluable. Being an actuary provides you with a variety of opportunities, and, thankfully, it's a role that can be done anywhere in the world.
What's your advice for younger actuaries?
Be bold, be open to new opportunities, step out of your comfort zone, and don't be afraid of the unknown.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I wouldn't have done anything differently, except maybe staying in Toronto a bit longer.
Pick the good out of each experience and bring it with you wherever you go.
Vasan Errakiah director of pricing for Pacific Life Re Singapore, shares his experience of working around the world