Jiuhao Wei is a senior at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he is pursuing a double major in Actuarial Science and Economics. Jiuhao is the current president of the DePauw Actuarial Student Organization, and he has previously interned at the Bank of China. We spoke with Jiuhao in August 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
One thing that’s not on my resume but is really important to me is the confidence that I’ve had since I was a child. My family raised me that way, and growing up, I received a lot of compliments from my parents that built up my confidence, which is really different from what Chinese parents usually do in my home country, China.
I think actuarial science ended up really fitting into my strengths. I really like math, econ, and finance, and actuarial science is really all of these things combined, in addition to dealing with numbers and risk.
My confidence helped me a lot when I was in middle school and high school, when I was away from my family and lived on campus. Those experiences have made it easy for me to adjust to this new environment of studying abroad for college.
What has your experience at DePauw University been like?
My time here has been wonderful. I’ve made a lot of friends here, and the professors and faculty have been really supportive to both my educational life, as well as my daily life. They’ve invited me to Thanksgiving dinners and given me all these opportunities to travel outside of our university to other major cities to attend conferences.
The town here is kind of small—we only have 3,000 students and including students, we only have around 10,000 people in the town—but we drive around to nearby cities like Indianapolis, West Lafayette, and Bloomington to have fun. I’ve met a lot of people here that I’ve become friends with, and they’re really just great people.
The system here is also pretty good. There are so many opportunities, and the alumni connection and networks are great. We have the Hubbard Center that offers a lot of opportunities to meet with people in the industry, to help keep us connected to the latest changes in the real world. It also helps us with our internships, which is really beneficial to our education overall.
I’ve had a really fruitful and interesting three years already here.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose DePauw?
When I was applying to college in the U.S., I was looking into small liberal arts schools, because I really preferred a smaller school where I could have close interactions with both my classmates and professors. I think smaller universities allow for professors to be more accessible to you, which can really benefit your academic life and help you learn from those professors.
The reason I chose DePauw out of all the liberal arts schools that I got admitted to is that those international upperclassmen, who had been the international liaisons of the admissions office, were really excited about me coming to their university, and they were really kind.
They were really helpful, and they explained everything that I had questions about. They introduced me to different people to answer my questions and clear up any confusion I had. I didn’t receive that much attention from other liberal arts schools that I had been admitted to, like Franklin & Marshall in Pennsylvania, Gettysburg, and Lafayette College. The enthusiasm I saw from DePauw’s international liaisons really made my choice. I really like to be surrounded by people like that.
What influenced you to pursue actuarial science?
I was first introduced to the actuarial science program here through a really good upperclassman friend who was majoring in actuarial science, and he talked a lot about it and mentioned that we had a really good professor in the program.
I think actuarial science ended up really fitting into my strengths. I really like math, econ, and finance, and actuarial science is really all of these things combined, in addition to dealing with numbers and risk. Actuarial science also has a pretty good career path, and that’s another reason I got into it after my econ major.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
The actuarial science program here hasn’t been around for too long—about 12 years now—and we have one professor who’s really focused on the program. We have a lot of good resources, and there are a lot of of DePauw graduates who work in this industry. We’ve had a lot of actuaries from the industry come to campus and speak to us about the real-world problems they’re facing in the industry, what actuaries do, and interview tips.
We also have reimbursement of the exam fee if you successfully pass an actuarial exam the first time, which is really beneficial financially. We have seminars that are intended to help you prepare for those actuarial exams, as well.
We also have the DePauw Actuarial Student Organization (DASO), which helps students go to all kinds of conferences that are related to actuarial science, find career opportunities, get in touch with the latest researchers, and meet people in the industry. I’m actually the president of that organization right now.
We also invite SOA volunteers to come to campus and hold workshops to introduce students to the market and the field, and keep us up-to-date on the latest changes in actuarial science. We also make connections with actuarial science clubs at other schools, like Indiana University at Bloomington, Purdue University, and IUPUI.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
Since I have two majors, I have favorites in both. For actuarial science, my favorite class was Introduction to Financial Engineering. We did three or four projects that connect what we learned in the class to a real-world simulator. We were able to apply our knowledge to some real-world problems, and that was really fun and exciting.
For econ, my favorite class was Regression and Simulation for Economics and Management. It was kind of a complicated class, but it really gives you a good look into all those regressions and simulations and the mechanics behind them, which is really important to know.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I think the most challenging part is that you have to keep refreshing what you’ve learned during the semester and taking the actuarial science exams during the summer or winter period. I think that it’s really important to constantly keep the material fresh in your mind before you take the exams, and that will help a lot with passing the exam.
I wish I had known just how tough a major actuarial science is to pursue. You need to have a deep interest and be excited about numbers and finance and be willing to do some hard work.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
After graduation, I hope to get a job related to actuarial science. If I can’t find something related to insurance, I hope I can find something that’s related to economics that will just get me some experience in the real world. I think risk management is really close to what you do in actuarial science, so I think I could also look for a role in that if I’m not lucky enough to find an actuarial science job.
It’s really difficult to find a job here in the U.S. for an international student, especially for a Chinese student. If I don’t get any job, I’ll probably apply to some graduate schools or programs that will enhance my ability to find a job and be a better competitor in the market.
For the long term, because in China, the insurance system is pretty messy, I want to help out and bring what I learn here back to China.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
The trend that really interests me is the move toward more personalized products, like insurance plans that are designed only for you. I think these plans are much better than those one-size-fits-all products that are currently widely used in the market. With all this data about different people out there, you can figure things out, like what kind of person a user is, and design personalized insurance for them.
AI is another development that is interesting to me. AI is influencing a lot of industries, and I definitely think it will make the insurance companies adopt faster and more efficient ways of processing claims. It will definitely reduce time and costs.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
The SOA, CAS, and III websites provide all kinds of information that you’ll need to be an actuary, and you have to take the exams through those institutions. These websites provide all kinds of information on the field, with the latest information and the most up-to-date changes. They also make different fact books about insurance, and they provide news, insights, and analyses about different topics that they think might be important in the future or are currently very popular.