In conversation with our Actuarial Graduate Trainee
By Contributing Author, 22 March 2017 1059
How long have you been with NTUC Income and how has your journey been so far – any notable experiences to share?
I embarked on my journey with Income as a Graduate Trainee in 2014. This July marks my third year here! As a Graduate Trainee, I was given the opportunity to hone my project management skills through organising events such as an organisation-wide volunteering programme – a visit to THK Home for The Disabled @ Eunos to celebrate the Lunar New Year – and an amazing race called “Race On!” to engage tertiary students. Being a fresh graduate, the experiences from organising these events helped me better understand the way of working at Income and through this, I got to know more colleagues and build better rapport with them as well!
The most memorable (albeit unfortunate) experience came from organising Race On! 2015. It was when Singapore was badly affected by haze. As an amazing race-styled event, Race On! requires participating teams to completing tasks at different locations with the fastest timing. My team closely monitored the haze situation nearing the race, as we had hoped to go ahead with our race plans. However, the haze was at an unhealthy level the day before the race. For the safety and health of all participants and staff volunteers, we made the crucial decision to “pull the plug”. While we were disappointed for not being able to execute the activities planned, making the difficult decision made the experience a memorable one. Facing tough choices and the ability to make decisions at crucial moments are important lessons to learn.
Why did you choose to be an actuary?
After my first year in Singapore Management University pursuing a degree in Economics, I considered taking up a second major. That was when I found out about Actuarial Science. I attended a talk held by the school about the majoring in Actuarial Science, and being interested in things that are more quantitative in nature, I was sold. I like how rigorous and challenging this specialisation is, and I particularly enjoy problem solving, so I decided to embark on an actuarial career.
Why work for Income?
Income’s social purpose (to make insurance accessible and sustainable for all) attracted me. As a social enterprise, Income has insurance offerings for the uninsured and underinsured, such as children with autism and Down syndrome. As an organisation that puts people first, Income designed ‘Orange Initiatives’ to value-add to its offerings to its customers.
The one initiative that struck me most is Orange Force, Income’s 24/7 accident-scene assistance for distressed motorists. As part of the Graduate Trainee Programme, I had the chance to rotate to Orange Force to understand how the team operates and learnt from their experiences. It is heartening to see the Orange Force riders take pride in their daily work as they strive to make a positive impact on others’ live, no matter rain or shine.
Furthermore, the Graduate Trainee Programme provided me the opportunity to be rotated to various business units, which gave me insights on how an insurer operates and allowed me to understand the challenges my internal stakeholders might face. This benefited my role as an actuary, as I gained exposure and broadened my perspective.
What are some on-the-job challenges and how did you overcome them?
Some of the challenges I face includes the need to grasp concepts fast, adapt to changes and produce quality work under pressure and time constraint. My colleagues definitely played an important role in overcoming these challenges. I have a group of supportive colleagues who provide ample guidance, as well as a team that is prepared to cover one another when necessary. I look forward to interacting with my colleagues each day, be it over lunch, having work discussions or solving problems together.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
An actuarial department handles pricing and reporting. My day typically involves a lot of data crunching. In my first year in the department, I started out with the pricing team, which involved interacting with business owners, implementation teams and other functions in the organisation to get a product launched or priced. I was given the chance to take a role in the reporting team in my second year, where I worked on projects such as business plans.
The challenges and technical aspects of the actuarial job scope excites me. I have the opportunity to work on different tasks within the department, as such, there was hardly a dull day for me. I enjoy learning on the job, as well as putting the technical knowledge I gathered from the professional examinations into real practice.
Tell us one misconception people have about actuaries.
People think actuaries are all introverted “geeks”. That’s not true! No doubt majority of our work involves looking at numbers and excel sheets, but we love to interact, and we have a fun side to us too!
What advice would you give someone looking to become an actuary?
Beyond professional examinations, it would be beneficial for an aspiring actuary to gain real-life experiences through internships. The internship experience will also help to validate if an actuarial career is really what you are looking for.