I grew up in China, but wanted to experience other places and cultures, so I decided to go to the University of Waterloo in Canada to do my Mathematics and Actuarial Science degree. While I was at university, I did several internships in both Canada and America, which gave me an insight into life as an actuary. After finishing my undergraduate degree and graduating in 2015, I was lucky enough to get a job as a pricing actuarial analyst at Pacific Life Re, so I moved to London.
Starting my career
When I was at university, I did a couple of internships in the pricing department of an insurance company. I enjoyed the technical aspect of the pricing projects and the opportunity to apply what I had learnt at university in practice, so I looked into careers in the insurance industry.
I came across the Pricing Actuarial Analyst position in my last year of university. I didn’t have any background in the reinsurance field but I was told by various senior actuaries that reinsurance is an interesting industry to work in. I had really enjoyed my multi-cultural experiences in Canada and America, so this something that encouraged me to move to London.
Once I had applied for the role at Pacific Life Re, I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and supportive the interviewers were throughout the recruitment process, and decided this was an opportunity that had the best fit with my career expectations.
Life as a pricing actuarial analyst
Pacific Life Re is a life reinsurance company, meaning we essentially insure life insurance companies. During the past seven months, the projects I have been working on have been quite dynamic. Typical projects on the pricing department involve calculating premium rates for potential clients (life insurance companies). This typically involves forming a view of the cost of life insurance going forwards. An integral part of this is analysing historical claims data and projecting how we expect claim rates to develop in the future. This can also require judgement calls where there is a lack of data or a new product feature being introduced. My job requires me to use spreadsheets, macros and formulas on a day to day basis.
I have also worked on internal projects that aim to improve our pricing process and provide actuarial insight to our clients.
Compared to my internships at insurance companies, my current job is more client-based, which I really enjoy. The job provides me with a good work/life balance, however, the nature of the job requires us to go the extra mile during peak times, particularly when we are approaching quote/tender deadlines, which can be an exciting but challenging time.
My colleagues are friendly, resourceful and are always willing to help. I feel privileged to have been provided with so much support from my team as well as from more senior staff. When I first joined the company, I attended various training sessions, which I found really useful and interesting. Two of my favourite sessions were: 1) reinsurance training; and 2) corporate inductions. The reinsurance training included two half-day sessions, where I was able to learn about the UK’s insurance/reinsurance industry in general. The corporate induction sessions were presented by senior staff from each department, which I found very valuable as I was able to have a better understanding of the functionalities of each department in the company.
The work environment at Pacific Life Re is professional but relaxed, with less of a sense of a hierarchy compared to my previous workplaces. As a graduate, I am encouraged to think independently but also to ask questions and challenge the current practice.
I am inspired when I can relate my academic learning to my current work. However, there have been some steep learning curves when it comes to the industry practice and commercial knowledge. Generally, these learning curves have helped me to grow and develop my skillset, knowledge and experience faster. I am always encouraged to think about the bigger picture and compare the reinsurance practice in different countries such as the UK, Canada and Singapore.
Transitioning to new cultures and future opportunities
My international experiences have broadened my horizons and have allowed me to become a more open-minded individual. I’m a strong believer that there are exciting opportunities for me to learn and improve every time I step out of my comfort zone.
I have found that the most challenging aspect of moving to a different country is probably the change in culture. But this was not unexpected as I had already made a similar transition when moving from China to Canada. Moving to London has provided me with a unique opportunity to adapt to a new environment, which can be an invaluable skill in today’s society.
Pacific Life Re has offices in London, Singapore, Seoul, Boston, Toronto and Sydney. Because of Pacific Life Re’s global footprint, the company is able to offer international work opportunities. I am looking to transfer to the Singapore office after one or two years of training in the London office. I consider this to be a unique and exciting opportunity as it will enable me to explore the reinsurance practices in another continent.