Levi Triplo is a senior at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, where he is majoring in Actuarial Science with a minor in Computer Science. Levi is the vice president of industry relations for the ISU Actuarial Club, and he interned this past summer at Reinsurance Group of America (RGA). We spoke with Levi in September 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I’m a huge fan of the St. Louis Blues, which is the national hockey team in St. Louis. This summer, with my internship, I got the chance to live in St. Louis. Getting to be there for the Blues winning the Stanley Cup this year was an unbelievable experience—definitely the highlight of my summer.
What has your experience at Illinois State University been like?
I love it here at ISU, and I’m extremely lucky to go here. I was blessed to come into ISU with a solid friend group. My roommate introduced me to all of his friends who also went here, so I had a tight-knit group coming in, which was great.
We have an amazing program here at ISU. We’ve been an SOA Center of Excellence for ten years, and we’ve also won the CAS University Award twice.
But I was timid about getting involved with school activities. I didn’t really feel like I needed to get involved because I already had such a good friend group, and I didn’t get involved until sophomore year. That’s when I finally mustered up the confidence to go out and get involved. I got a job on campus and joined Gamma Iota Sigma and Actuarial Club. It was then that I really started making the most of all the resources and opportunities we have here at ISU. Since then, I’ve just been taking off with all of those things.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose ISU?
I’m from the St. Louis area, so I looked at schools like Missouri State, Maryville University in St. Louis, and ISU. In the end, it came down to ISU and Maryville because of how good their actuarial programs were.
When I came to visit ISU, I got to talk to Dr. Krzysztof Ostaszewski, our program director. He was such an important figure at the university, and him taking the time to sit down and talk to me and my parents, answering all of the many questions we had—it just showed me why ISU’s program is top-notch. That experience really persuaded me to come to ISU. Also, I fell in love with ISU’s campus during my visit, and that was another big factor.
What influenced you to pursue actuarial science?
In high school, I loved mathematics. It just was something I was naturally good at, so I knew that’s where I wanted my career to go, but I had a few other things that were really important for me, my career, and my major. One was that I would always be challenging myself to the fullest extent. I also didn’t want to be stagnant and not be learning through college or, even more importantly, throughout my career. I always want to be learning and bettering myself.
The actuarial exam path posed an immense challenge, and it was one that I really wanted to take on. It also presented opportunities to grow throughout your career, not to mention great job security. Now that I’ve taken a few exams, I realize just how rewarding they are, and I’m kind of addicted to the feeling of passing exams.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
We have an amazing program here at ISU. We’ve been an SOA Center of Excellence for ten years, and we’ve also won the CAS University Award twice. And Dr. Krzys, he works so hard to give us every resource to succeed. Our school gets a lot of attention from very large insurance companies, and we also have great success because we have an amazing insurance school, The Katie School of Insurance and Risk Management. We have companies like State Farm, COUNTRY Financial, and Pinnacle in our backyard to give us support and to give resources to succeed.
One great thing about the ISU actuarial science program that you don’t really get anywhere else is that we have equal support from both actuarial societies. Our graduates are almost 50/50 exactly going with the SOA and the CAS. So there’s no real bias either way, so if you really weren’t sure about SOA or CAS, I think ISU is one of the best places to go to help you figure it out.
In terms of clubs, we have a great chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, an insurance and risk-management fraternity. They hold a lot of different soft-skill events and lunch-and-learns with various companies. We also have a separate Actuarial Club. We also put on a lot of events, with different companies coming in to tell us about their internship programs, teach on different topics in the industry, etc. I think everyone who comes out an active member of the Actuarial Club is able to feel a lot more prepared for interviews and full-time jobs.
We also have a giant career and internship fair called Meet the Firms. We get almost 30 companies to come out, and you’re able to talk and network with all of them. The companies then conduct onsite interviews the next day.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class so far has been MATH 283: Introduction to Actuarial Computing. I think it’s just a really unique class. It’s a one-credit class, and it gives you the rundown on Excel and Access. It’s a great class for a sophomore who hasn’t had an internship yet. It gives you all these very important skills for an internship, like using functions and pivot tables. The class was really fun, too.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
The hardest thing for me to adjust to was learning how to study for actuarial exams. Like many actuarial students, high school math came pretty naturally for me, and as a result, I never learned very good study habits.
That was definitely one of my problems because I came into my first actuarial exam, and I did not realize the amount of time that it would take to study for an exam, sometimes three months of studying. That definitely took adjusting to and just learning how to study the right way. But once you do transition and learn how to prepare for the exams, it really improves your time management skills and discipline.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
This past summer, I got the chance to intern at Reinsurance Group of America (RGA) at their headquarters is in St. Louis. That was an amazing experience. I worked on a software development team, which was nice because they tailored my internship experience for me and gave my computer science minor a nod. Also, reinsurance is just a really unique and fun industry, so I really enjoyed it. I think RGA has the best company culture and people, and I made massive strides in a number of areas like analyzing data and communication.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
I think everyone who has been in the industry for a little bit can see that the industry is moving toward new technology like AI, automation, and predictive analytics. I had the chance to go to InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas this year and see all these new startups that are coming about because of these processes that insurance companies need to be expedited and made faster.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
Right now, I’m planning on going all the way in pursuing my FSA and working in the industry somewhere. I also really like the software and technology side of things, though, so if the computer science minor takes me down a new path, I might see where that leads.
I’ve also had the opportunity to hold a lot of leadership roles in jobs, sports, and clubs that I’ve been associated with, and I’ve really developed a passion for leading and mentoring. So I definitely see myself in the future having some kind of leadership or mentorship role, and that’s going to be really important to me in my future career.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
I would say just get involved. Shadow someone. Read articles. Ask your parents about their insurance—anything. Just find a way to absorb insurance information and lingo. Talk to people who are smarter than you, and they can help guide you and tell you if that path’s right for you.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
I follow the /actuary subreddit on Reddit. It’s an interesting way to get insights from people in the industry. I’d also recommend The Actuary Magazine that the SOA produces.