Jimin Chung is an Actuarial Science graduate student at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. She received her undergraduate degree in Actuarial Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jimin will complete her Master’s program in December 2019. We spoke with her in April 2019.
What has your experience at the University of Windsor been like?
It’s been great. I did my bachelor’s degree at a really big school, and the University of Windsor is kind of small compared to that. But I really like that because I think it gives you more of a friendly atmosphere. The people here are really nice.
Also, I’m originally from Toronto, so compared to Toronto, Windsor is really warm! I’ve heard that Windsor has the nickname “the Florida of Canada.” It’s nice and warm here, which I like. The University of Windsor is also special in that it is so close to the border, so you can see the Ambassador Bridge every time you go to school, and I think it’s really cool. The bridge is especially beautiful at night when it’s lit up.
The beauty of actuarial science is that with this knowledge, you can quantify and manage something so uncertain and intangible, like risks, and help people to be protected from those uncertainties.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Windsor?
After I graduated with my bachelor’s, I thought I wasn’t ready to go out there and work just yet. I personally thought I was not good enough back then. I wanted to be more sophisticated and more ready for the world. So I thought it would be a good idea to just focus on my field of study and pursue a master’s and have a more profound knowledge about the field.
When I was applying for a master’s program, I was looking at programs like a Master of Financial Mathematics or a Master of Applied Mathematics, offered by other universities in Ontario. Since I majored in actuarial science for my bachelor’s, I thought maybe I wanted to do my master’s in something else, but in a similar field. At the end of the day, though, my goal is to be an actuary, so I wanted to focus more on deeper learning in what I love. That’s why I chose the actuarial science program at the University of Windsor.
I also chose the University of Windsor because of its great location. Windsor is really close to the border and really close to Detroit, and I heard that the University of Windsor is actually the first community university that Detroit area companies look to when seeking actuary employees. I think the actuarial science program at the University of Windsor gives you exposure to job opportunities not only in Canada, but also in the United States, and I thought that was a really big advantage.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I’m inspired a lot by my father, since he worked in the insurance industry for approximately 30 years. I’ve felt really close to the actuarial profession since I was very little, and this is one of the biggest reasons that made me step into the actuarial field. But what made me continue to stay and pursue actuarial science until now was the charm that actuarial science has. The beauty of actuarial science is that with this knowledge, you can quantify and manage something so uncertain and intangible, like risks, and help people to be protected from those uncertainties. This made me want to continue in the actuarial science field and become an actuary.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
As you go further into studying actuarial science, I think it allows you to develop more as an all-around player because in order to practice actuarial science, you’re required to have a good understanding in various fields, like math, statistics, finance, and economics. You also need to have good analytical skills and comprehension skills because actuarial science involves a lot of data analysis.
Majoring in actuarial science is pretty challenging, but it’s also very meaningful because you can use these highly specialized skills to protect people from possible risks and help them have safer lives.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
My experience with the program has been really great. The actuarial science program is well coordinated to prepare students for the SOA exams, and it has great financial management courses. I also love how the overall class size is pretty small, which I think helps students in the program feel more tightly bonded with one another and generates a really friendly atmosphere.
The actuarial science program also has great professors who are willing to help you whenever you need them. And since the class is small, you have better relationships with professors, and professors tend to know you by face and by name.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
Studying for the actuarial exams is pretty hard because in order to be a fully qualified actuary, you need to pass a series of ten or more exams, depending on which field you choose. I started to take the SOA exams when I was in my sophomore year in college, but I think it would have been nicer if I had started it earlier.
For me, it was hard to study for the SOA exams and follow the coursework in school at the same time, especially during my junior and senior when I had a lot of major courses to take. I think managing to take the exams while being successful in your college courses was the biggest challenge that I had.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
I worked as an intern at a Korean insurance consulting company named ICG that builds predictive data models and develops IT packages for insurance companies in South Korea. Through the internship, I had an opportunity to be exposed to various data from different insurance companies and assist in data analysis work.It was a good experience that allowed me to observe real work life.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
In the next five years or so, I want to become a qualified actuary, so I’m planning to finish my ASA next year and start studying for the FSA. Also, I’m actively seeking entry-level positions and opportunities to implement the knowledge and skills that I have acquired throughout my education and grow as a professional in the field.
In terms of a focus, I think I’m pretty much open to any field in the insurance industry because at the end of the day, whatever field you choose, the main purpose of being in insurance is to help people and protect people from risks.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
One of the issues in the industry that has caught my attention is the significant decline in life insurance ownership, especially for Millennials. According to an article published by The Actuary Magazine, in order to attract Millennials to life insurance and successfully engage with them, life insurers need to understand the characteristics and expectations of the Millennial generation.
Millennials are characterized as digital natives, and therefore, it seems critical for the life insurance industry to make a change to its traditional sales system, which is reaching out to customers by broker and agent channels. Companies need to focus on the needs and preferences of Millennial customers and improve the customer experience in buying life insurance products, possibly by implementing digital technologies in the sales process.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
I would tell others not to give up and to be strong. I have many friends who started actuarial science but ended up transferring to different majors because of the difficulty of the SOA exams. The exams are hard to pass, but I think if you have perseverance, and if you don’t give up, nothing is impossible. While the exams can be very time-consuming and stressful, I believe that the time and effort spent on the exams will pay off in the end.
When I took my first exam, I wasn’t expecting to fail, but I did. I felt like giving up. But I guess I just didn’t want to lose, and I felt that if I didn’t overcome this setback, I wouldn’t be able to overcome anything. And after I passed my first exam and second exam, I think I got a better sense of how to take the exams. I think if you get used to it, it’s pretty fun because passing an exam really gives you satisfaction and a feeling of achievement. I think that helped to push me on to continue taking the exams.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
I recommend checking out the Actuarial Outpost website because whenever I had questions about actuarial exams or professions, most of the time, my questions were answered by the threads in the Actuarial Outpost discussion forums.
For studying, I recommend the Coaching Actuaries website. Coaching Actuaries has video lessons for every preliminary exam. Since I’m kind of a visual learner, the video lessons helped me a lot, compared to the manuals that you can buy. I also liked their practice exam tool called Adapt. It allows you to practice the exam in a similar environment to the actual CBT exams and analyze your performance after each practice.