02 Jun 2020 18:14 IST

Why actuarial studies are gaining importance in the Covid-19 context

Techniques that analyse risks and risk management will see a rise in interest in the coming years

The term ‘actuarial studies’ may confound many! It is the study of mathematical and statistical techniques to assess risks in insurance, finance and other industries, such as health. It has a primary role to play in risk management practices, and actuaries are employed in the insurance, finance and reinsurance industries to assess risks and develop techniques to manage them.

Careers for students of actuarial studies typically include working as actuaries in insurance companies, comprising life and non-life insurance, and in investment banking, finance, risk management, trading, stock-broking and the reinsurance industry.

Rewarding experience

While exploring college degrees in my 11th year of school, this course attracted me as I had an inclination towards Mathematics, and this course was maths-oriented. However, at first I dropped the idea as the initial core courses required a commerce background, and I was studying non-medical science (physics, chemistry and maths).

Though I first enrolled into a software engineering course at college, my interest in mathematics endured! So, during my first semester, I researched and reached out to UNSW Business School’s Student Centre to know more about the Actuarial Studies course and requirements. After intense consultations, I decided to apply for the course as a key prerequisite was a sound mathematical background.

In addition, I was lucky enough to secure the ‘Future of Change’ scholarship, which is offered exclusively to Indian students for any stream of their choice at the UNSW, which was a great relief to my parents as well!

Pursuing the dual degree overseas has been a really rewarding experience for my personal and professional development. The University is a highly research-driven one, which really hones your analytical skills and is highly valued by employers. It is also really useful if the University you are in actively helps you to secure practical work and an immersive experience, and I was guided and supported to join SCOR SE — a French reinsurance MNC where my job as an Actuarial Intern was to analyse and manage the risk of insurance companies, which also require insurance when the number of claims is exorbitantly large and unexpected, for instance, in case of natural calamities, like presently.

Eerie coincidence

A pandemic like the Covid-19 is one such Probable Maximum Loss Scenario, leading to public health issues and economic consequences that hugely impact the insurance industry as the frequency and size of claims can spike dramatically. Obviously, being prepared is of utmost value in this scenario, and I think the demand for actuaries — specialising in this area — will accelerate, as they will need to model how the environment will affect claims and disrupt business plans.

Coincidentally, and perhaps eerily, one of my projects as an Actuarial Intern at SCOR was to do a Worker’s Compensation Probable Maximum Loss Scenario in which one possible scenario was a pandemic where we had to model the maximum loss so that we are able to manage that risk, if and when it occurs. This was last year when no relevant data about a global pandemic was available!

Actuaries are pivotal elements of any business in order to solve practical problems and financial risks with sound mathematical and economic knowledge. Furthermore, actuarial studies also opens up opportunities in finance economics and funds management industries as it equips you with diverse skill sets that make you more employable. And risk management is nowadays required in almost every field.

Adapting to online study

The abrupt transition to online studies has not been too disruptive for my course, though it does make you feel isolated at times, especially after leading such a vibrant on-campus life! However, online studies are much more flexible and less time-consuming as you save a lot of travel time and can devote more time to studies.

Today, technology is so advanced that I don’t feel that I am unable to reach out to my lecturers, ask questions or talk to my group mates to excel in the group projects. It took a couple of weeks to adapt, but after my first term online, I really appreciate my University’s efforts and how well they have delivered online course work. Overall, this is a really convenient and adaptive way of studying, given the circumstances, and offers opportunities to cater to different interests at the same time.

(The writer is a final year student of Bachelor of Actuarial & B.Com Studies at the University of New South Wales, Sydney)