This time, The Actuarial Club interviewed Adil Virani who started his Actuarial journey, almost 10 years ago, and now has established a consultancy focussing on Insurance and non-insurance products. We let Adil speak his heart out regarding his journey, his views, sharing his valuable experience and honest opinions.
The motto of IGAP is “Reducing the gap between VISION and REALITY”
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue Actuarial Science as your career?
Growing up, I was never proactive about anything in my life. Choosing a career was no different. The only thing I knew about myself for sure was that I loved statistics and numbers and hated biology and chemistry with passion. My brother, on the other end of the spectrum, was well decided on what he wanted to do while being 2 years younger than me. I was in grade 10 when I heard my brother talk about Actuarial science. After searching for what it meant, I came across two words which were the selling point to me. Money and Statistics; two things which I loved more than anything else. Hence this was the start of my actuarial journey and the one which I copied from my younger brother.
One more thing that kept my interest ignited until I reached the University of Waterloo in 2010, was the fact that only a few people end up completing all exams to become a fellow, so once I was done, I would have been part of a group of elite Fellows. That itself was good enough motivation to keep me alive in the game. This is how I knew, actuarial was for me; Journey was going to belong, but a rewarding one as it turned out.
How long this journey has been for you from starting as a newbie to becoming a Qualified Actuary and what are the major challenges you faced during this journey?
As I mentioned in LinkedIn article, named “ACTUariaL Marathon” (link at the end of the article), this journey is comparable to marathon and not a sprint. I started my Actuarial journey in September 2010 at University of Waterloo as an international student. As I was part of the coop(intern) program, I finished my program in June 2015, with 2 years of work experience, 5 actuarial exams, and double majors in actuarial science and statistics. University had its own challenges ranging from cultural shocks to financial stressors, each with its own complexities.
After graduation I started working at one of the biggest P&C insurance company in Canada, while I kept writing my actuarial exams with determination. I would say it was tough at times, especially when I failed for the first time on my 7th exam and did not take that well. I realized it soon after that if I must get done with these exams, biggest hurdle I had to beat was my own thoughts and doubts. Once you take control of those, no one can beat you. Persistence was, is, and will always be the key. Just keep at it.
Problems are temporary, but victory lasts forever.
In short, my journey started from my first day at University of Waterloo on September 1st, 2010, and I received my fellowship of Actuary in June 2019, so in total a little shy of 9 years. I am not saying in any way that it is a short time, because it is not. What I wasn’t to iterate in here is, take your time, while you live your life too. Remember, journey to become an actuary is one part of your life, and not your entire life, so make sure to give other areas of your life equal amount of time. Persistence is the key as I always say. Stay at it, and in no time, I will see you on the other side.
What changes do you observe has come into the profession from the time you started your career and now in the current market situation?
As anything else, actuarial careers have evolved overtime as well. The evolution has to do with the types of risks being different time to time. What we consider risk now might not be something we might have even thought about 10 years back. Some of the risks present 10 years back, might not be risk anymore or might have become part of our new reality.
The changes in the environment has forced us actuaries to change our product offerings overtime; it has forced us to take a deeper look in to what is and is not covered under the policy terms and may be modify those offerings as needs change.
Climate change has been a source of major property claims over past few years, and hence the importance of flood/earthquake coverage to name a few have been important now more than ever. Actuaries during these times are required to come up with an offering that is insurable, affordable and viable. Moreover, risk mitigation has taken more focus compared to risk management.
New companies are coming up with different insurance needs and are bringing their asks to the insurance companies; Uber, Lyft, and Turo are to name a few. Our jobs as actuaries is to come up with a product to meet new and evolving demands.
Irrespective of the changes in the product offerings, the basic methodology in pricing stays the same;
No risk is a bad risk, as long as it is priced properly”
As an Actuary you have experience in the number of non- traditional fields in which an Actuary can work. Could you please enlighten us on some of these non-traditional roles?
There have been some interesting roles I got a chance to work as an actuary; When I started working full-time, my first project was to work on a MVR model. Let me first explain what it means. MVR stands for “motor vehicle report”. In Ontario, Canada, each speeding ticket/convictions/reported accidents are kept track of in a MVR which is owned by the government authority. When insurers receive a car insurance quote from a potential insured, companies trust the insureds for the accuracy of convictions/accidents they report, however, company is not sure if the customer is acting in good faith or not.
Here is where MVR comes in to play. As you would have imagined, MVR costs company money and hence it cannot be pulled on each and every insured, hence companies have a dedicated budget to order these reports, and hence they need actuaries to model customer behaviour, and have a model in place to score a customer before ordering the report. This way companies try to find customers who are more likely to act in bad faith and hence validates their information through MVR, rather than ordering it randomly. I must say this was a very interesting project, especially when you know what you are trying to model is essentially if the person is lying or not.
Also, within my career, I have also had chances to work on various marketing models to optimize companies dollar spent on advertising, worked with underwriters to filter our book before even we write the policies, and also helped a group of data scientists see the business side of things.
You have recently started up your own consultancy firm “IGAP Consultants”. Please share with us how this journey started and the idea behind it.
I had always wanted to combine my knowledge with the passion of helping individuals/companies who might not have been big enough to afford services of big consulting companies at a hefty price. Hence, the rise of IGAP consultants(link below).
The idea is to offer support to small businesses to reduce the GAP between their vision and their reality by offering solutions that drive revenue, and optimizes costs, using the data they themselves do not know could be used for their benefit.
Seeing these businesses succeed has been a sense of immense pleasure to me and hence pushes me even further. Hopefully one day, I want to make sure that all these small businesses have the support and expertise they are looking for, without spending a fortune.
If you know of any company that might need our support, or we can help them uplift by pricing their products/services, optimizing costs or customer behaviour modelling, we would love to support them and bring them back to life.
Everybody deserves their fair shot.
You are working on making content for Pricing, Risk Management, Assessments, etc. It would be great if you could give a short explanation about pricing to our audience.
Yes, I would love to. I have always been excited about Pricing to be honest. It just burns my heart seeing how simplify we have made our pricing as costs + profit without embedding in the price the contingencies or expected costs of various risks which might arise and threaten the viability of the entire company.
Some of my clients, even the bigger multi-nationals sometimes find it difficult to wrap their head around this concept. In layman terms, what I am trying to say is price needs to incorporate various paddings which are for risk associated with the product and service. Please note, these paddings are not profit, but the reserves you need to put aside for the events in case they materialize. Covid-19 has triggered some companies to check their pricing. Companies who had been padding their pricing for past many years, had significant reserves to back them up when its existence was in question.
While serving as president of a Provincial actuarial body within Canada “OCCA” what have been your contribution to the actuarial Profession. Any changes you have brought in the system?
I always love to talk about this experience as it has not only allowed me to grow my connection 10 folds, but also made me a better actuary learning from industry experts.
As part of the volunteer role at OCCA, I have had chances to work with my amazing team to organize conferences twice a year for about 800 Actuaries within Ontario, Canada. We have invited several speakers to talk about industry trending topics that could help each company. These include CEO’s and SVP’s of top insurance companies, regulators from government bodies, and even some climate change experts to talk about things which we can all use to enhance our areas of expertise.
These conferences have also allowed individuals to network with their fellow actuaries’ whole day long, or over the cocktail in the evening. It has been a great success, and I am very confident in my team going forward to take this initiative to new level in the years to come.OCCA link at the end of this article.
How was the experience at the University of Waterloo while pursuing Actuarial Science and Statistics? Would you recommend Actuarial students to go for a master’s degree in Actuarial Science?
My experience at University of Waterloo was crucial in getting me where I am today. The undergraduate program was robust enough to teach me theory behind the practical applications which I worked on during the coop terms(internships). It is very rigorous program, and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about actuarial science as their full-time profession.
Now when you ask me about masters, I might not be the best person to talk about that as I was never in that boat. However, I do not mind sharing my two cents on it. While getting your masters in actuarial science provides you with some exemptions from various actuarial societies in terms of the first few exams, I would say it is still not robust enough as the undergraduate program which is a combination of both theory and practical application, while in most cases lands you a full time job from one of the companies you have worked at as a coop. Again, this is just my opinion and in no way reflective of what the reality might be.
I am also going to start mentoring sessions for students. You can find the link at the end of this article.
How Actuary as profession has helped you grow your personality?
It has helped me grow immensely. I feel I can add value and touch lives of so many people.
Actuarial professional has provided me with a technical toolkit which could be used to solve almost any problem a human can imagine. Over the past few years, I have helped multiple businesses achieve their full potential using some of the techniques I learnt during my actuarial journey.
Other than technical details, actuarial profession has taught me patience and perseverance, and that it takes time to achieve something worth having. I practice that regularly in my daily life and communicate these messages to my mentees who are at early stages of their career.
How I see our profession is that we are individuals who are helping the world by reducing their uncertainties and giving them peace of mind in return of a manageable premium. I have no doubt this profession will teach you more than you have ever imagined and will not only make you a more technical individual but will also make you more human and compassionate.
We would like to thank Mr. Adil Virani for sharing his valuable experience and earnest insights with us through this opportunity of interviewing him.
Link to LinkedIn article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/actuarial-marathon-adil-virani-fcas-astat/
igaplearning page: https://igaplearning.com/
The OCCA: http://theocca.ca/
Feel free to get in touch with Adil on his Linkedin.