Andi Olivet is a senior at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. She is majoring in Actuarial Science and will be graduating in May 2019. After graduation, Andi will working for Cigna in their Actuarial Executive Development Program. We spoke with Andi in April 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
Everyone who knows me knows this about me—I am a crazy cat lady. I have a kitten. Her name is Lila, and she’s adorable, and I love cats so much. I am that girl.
A little bit more on the professional side, I have a really strong passion for college student development, which I know isn’t necessarily normal in an actuarial science major. One day, I hope to come back to the university setting and work in an administrative role, preferably in a tutoring center. I’ve worked for the University Tutorial Services, which is the on-campus tutoring center at Appalachian, for about three years now. It’s had a really huge impact on my life, and I really look forward to, after my actuarial career, being able to come back into this setting and give back for what they’ve given me.
I know the typical stereotype for insurance is that it’s boring, but let me just tell you right now: it is so not boring.
What has your experience at Appalachian State University been like?
My experience has been absolutely amazing. I love this school so much. It’s the best decision I could have made. All the students, faculty, and staff are so supportive of one another.
The academic programs are outstanding, along with so many student resources that are offered. I know I’ve taken advantage of so many things on campus that I didn’t think I would have. As I mentioned, I work at the tutoring center, and I started working there because I utilized its resources. Also, I was a part of Appol Corps, which is what we call our first-year orientation. I came early one summer and worked with students who were entering App, just because I loved it so much after my first year there.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Appalachian?
I actually applied and was admitted to six different schools—App, University of Kentucky, Clemson, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I chose Appalachian—it sounds like a cliché, but—because it felt like home. As soon as I walked on campus, it felt like it was the place where I was supposed to be. Everyone was so nice and helpful. I got lost on campus during my first tour, and I wasn’t with anyone else, and six different people tried to give me directions. Everyone was so nice.
Also, it just felt like the best fit from my options to pursue a degree in actuarial science, because App had a program that was very focused and wasn’t just math with a build-your-own concentration in actuarial science. The small class sizes and the faculty-to-student relationships, I believe, are unlike any other university. I’ve gained a lot from that, and I think that’s something that other students should work to gain as well.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I always knew I wanted to do something with math, and I thought for the longest time that I wanted to be a teacher. But I really loved the business side of things. My dad would always come home talking about business and finance, and I thought it was so interesting.
I became interested in actuarial science after my mom mentioned her colleague’s son was pursuing actuarial science in school. I looked it up and thought, “This sounds like exactly what I want to do. It combines all of my passions with a direct career path.” And then during my first on-campus tour at App, I actually got to speak with Dr. Kevin Shirley, who is the program director for the actuarial science program at our school. After that, I was just drawn in.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
I would say because the challenge that it comes with, while very difficult, provides so many opportunities. The coursework and the exam process are tough, but the rewards of great job security, great salary, so many different opportunities, and the benefits that you receive are so worth it. And you have the opportunity to really better the insurance industry from behind the scenes. You really get to make a difference, which is something that I really find irreplaceable.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
The program of study is split about 50/50 between math and statistics, and then there are other business courses—mostly finance, but some economics, accounting, etc. We have two courses in the Math Department, Financial Mathematics and Fundamentals of Probability, that really help in preparation for Exam FM and P. After these semester-long courses, I barely had to study for those exams, which was really nice. We had really knowledgeable professors in those courses, specifically.
We have two other courses, Actuarial Models and our Senior Seminar in Actuarial Science, that prepare you for Exams IFM and LTAM. It’s really nice that we have these courses to help prepare us because I know there are a lot of universities that, with just a build-your-own concentration in actuarial science, wouldn’t have given me that hands-on knowledge.
We also have two clubs on campus. We have the Actuarial Science Club, which is in the Math Department. It’s pretty much run by students with our advisor, Dr. Shirley. We put on a lot of events just to get actuarial science students together, which I think is really fun. You get to know the people that you’re actually sitting in class with because you’re pretty much in every class with them, once you get up into your junior and senior years.
We also have a chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, which is a collegiate fraternity for risk management, insurance, and actuarial science, which I’ve been lucky enough to have been a part of for two years now. I was on the executive board this past year, which is definitely a great opportunity for a lot of travel and conferences, as well as the opportunity to learn more about the industry and job opportunities.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite course has been Financial Derivatives. This course was in the Finance Department, not the Math Department, but it was still very math heavy. I enjoyed taking the class with a mixture of students. There was a pretty big group of actuarial science students, but there were also a lot of finance, economics, risk management, and insurance majors. It was fun to have a lot of different people with different perspectives in that class.
The professor was also awesome, and his teaching style was great when it came to learning the material. I was already familiar with a lot of the material through studying for Exam IFM, but it was still interesting to see how he taught it. Also, I just loved learning about derivatives. That sounds nerdy, but that’s okay. I think they’re really cool, and the actions behind combining them are really interesting, and ultimately, it serves to find the best solution for the goal of the investor.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
The most challenging thing would probably have to be the approximately 30 days before every exam I take. It is just flat-out exhausting, especially combining it with having a part-time job and still being a full-time college student, having to go to class and still take and study for other tests.
It’s hard because no one else in your life, unless they’re also an actuarial science student, seems to understand why it’s such a large time commitment, or why I’m taking a three-hour practice exam every single day. But at that point, you have to do what you have to do.
Outside of that, I wish I knew ahead of time a little bit more about the difference between SOA, the Society of Actuaries, which is more on the life and health side, and CAS, the Casualty Actuarial Society, which is more on the property and casualty side.
I felt like I had to make a decision really early on between those two, because they do split on the exam process so early. I’m actually studying now for my fourth exam. I decided to go the life and health route, but I feel like there’s the potential that I didn’t have enough background to make that decision. It was more of a gut feeling for me, so I wish that early on in the actuarial science program, I had more background to help make that decision.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
I’ve had two internships the past two summers. I worked at Scott Insurance in Charlotte, North Carolina in the summer of 2017 as a benefits intern, and I worked at The Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut in the summer of 2018 as an actuarial intern in the Group Benefits Valuation Department.
My experience was incredible at both. Scott Insurance was great in allowing me to develop general knowledge and get exposure to the insurance industry. The internship wasn’t specifically actuarial, but it was still an amazing opportunity and really got me into that field and helped me understand the bigger picture.
The Hartford was great in confirming my desire to pursue an actuarial career, as I could really see what the day-to-day life would be like as an actuary. I definitely really enjoyed both experiences.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I’m actually moving at the end of June to Nashville, Tennessee, to start with Cigna in their Actuarial Executive Development Program. I’m super excited about that.
For future aspirations, I want to become an FSA. I think that’s everyone’s goal. Potentially, I want to get my MBA as well, so I can continue to move up in leadership positions within a company, not necessarily within actuarial, but to continue to move up into more executive roles and make an even bigger difference and contribution to the company I work for.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
I think the biggest trend that affects actuarial work today is predictive analytics. There’s so much that you can do nowadays with all this information that we’re able to receive, and it really gives actuaries the ability to build better models. I think there’s a lot to do with all of this information, and I think everybody is still figuring out, “What can we use? What do we want to use?”
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
My biggest piece of advice is just to go for it. I’ve heard from so many people that have come back as guest speakers through Gamma Iota Sigma or at conference talks that I’ve been to, that look back and say that they fell into the insurance industry. And while that’s great, because they have made huge contributions to the industry, you don’t have to be that person. Jump right into it. It’s an amazing industry. It’s full of growth and opportunity. I know the typical stereotype for insurance is that it’s boring, but let me just tell you right now: it is so not boring.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
I have three magazines/newsletters that I subscribe to and read regularly. The Actuary is super great and informative. It has a lot of really good stories, and it’s always very up to date. Also, I subscribe to both the SOA and CAS newsletters. Even though I am going the SOA route, they both have information that is applicable to everybody in the industry. The newsletters are quick and easy to read. They give you the big bullet points, which I think is really good for someone who’s not in the industry yet but wants to know more.