1:1 with Evelyn Chow

Eighteen months into her role as Appointed Actuary P&C for Australia and New Zealand, Evelyn Chow, reflects on the role actuaries play in the value chain of an organisation.

What has been your career journey to date?

Many are surprised to hear that I actually started out as an electrical engineer, working on the simulation of a submarine combat system for training purposes. It was by chance I became an actuary. My actuarial expertise has mainly been through consulting, which has provided great opportunities for exposure to a range of experience; working for great companies and with great people both in Australia and overseas.

What is the most topical industry issue facing actuaries in the region?

Like any other profession, 'all things digital' is having a profound impact on how we shape the future of our industry, not just in the region but globally. These can be enablers for us to further sharpen our data analytics abilities, providing better and timelier insights. On the other hand, as actuaries, we are faced with new and different problems to solve, e.g. cyber risks, climate change risks, and the Internet of Things just to name a few.

What role can actuaries play in identifying risks and uncertainties – as well as opportunities?

Where there are risks, there are opportunities. Actuaries are well placed in identifying risks and turning them into something which is tangible and measurable. You may ask: What potential financial impact climate change has on your business? What treatments are more effective for a particular type of disease? How could data from the Internet of Things help us better manage risks e.g. safer driving? There is now such a wide range of data available in the public domain from geographical data, APRA stats, ABS stats, meteorological data, hospital and health data etc,, which can be integrated into our analysis to help us find solutions to these questions.

Swiss Re's vision is to make the world more resilient.  What role does the actuarial team play in helping to achieve this?

We are an important part of the value chain and play an integral role in the cross-functional nature of the operation; working collaboratively with other teams to deliver the best solution for our clients. We ensure sufficient reserves are in place to pay for the rebuild after nat cats, a great example is the Canterbury earthquakes, or to assist in full-functioning of bodily injury schemes – we ensure we are adequately capitalised so our clients can rely on us to meet our obligations, and in turn theirs, especially in times of stress.

Have you noticed a change in the diversity of the profession?

Most definitely, particularly around age, with the industry average dropping. Recent statistics from the Institute of Actuaries in Australia members show that 55% of members are younger than 34. On the gender front, 45% of our local actuaries are women, which is great!

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their actuarial career? 

Hone your skills, be curious, keep learning, have an open-mind, challenge yourself and try different things.

You've been in your current role for 18 months. What has been your key observation?

Overall it would have to be the global nature of the organisation and the level of collaboration I've witnessed between the teams and our partners. What's been great is that my role goes beyond day to day actuarial skills, which allows for personal growth and development.

Finally, on a more personal note, is there a book you would recommend to our readers?

A recent good read - Originals (How non-conformists move the world), by Adam Grant. It asked some of the following questions: What insight does using Firefox or Chrome tell you about an employee? Procrastination could be a good thing – Really? What are Bridgewater principles? Fascinating insights about how to be "Originals".