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Need for life insurance actuaries forecast to grow

Only growth on the horizon: actuaries Steffin du Preez, left, Sylvia Oliveira, Taiyana Allen and Nina Coetzer see only growth for the life sector of their profession in Bermuda (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

When Sylvia Oliveira started as an actuary in Bermuda in 1999, there were only a handful of other life-sector actuaries here.

“There were the ones I knew in my company,” she said. “Maybe there were one or two other companies also.”

Today, she knows of at least 200. Life insurance has exploded in Bermuda in the past decade, with some people designating it separately as its own pillar of the economy.

What is an actuary

Actuaries use mathematics, statistics and financial theory to assess the financial costs of risk and uncertainty, primarily for the insurance industry.

According to KPMG, life is now the largest insurance sector by assets in Bermuda, with more than $500 billion in assets under management.

Life company registration in Bermuda has seen record growth over the past few years, and that growth is showing no sign of abatement

“Life has really grown rapidly,” said Ms Oliveira, chief executive of Wilton Re. “It is distinguishing itself from P&C. We have somewhat of a different culture, because we write very long-dated policies. Our companies are a bit slower and more measured.”

Ms Oliveira said it is healthy for the Bermuda economy to have a diversified insurance industry.

“They are driven by different underlying risks,” she said. “If you have a bad hurricane season or earthquake that is going to impact the P&C side, but not the life side.

“Life is more impacted by financial distress. An economic downturn would be more harmful to our side.”

For a long time, there was an actuarial organisation, but its focus was on P&C actuaries. Ms Oliveira could not join.

Last month, she realised a long-held dream when she launched Actuaries of Bermuda, a society for professionals who work on either side of the insurance industry.

“I wanted to be inclusive, so we are not affiliated with other organisations overseas,” she said.

The AOB now has more than 180 paid members. A big part of its work is mentoring young Bermudian actuaries.

Taiyana Allen, 25, falls into this category. After graduating from university two years ago, she is working through a required series of seven actuarial exams, while employed as an actuarial analyst at Wilton Re.

On average, it can take three to seven years to complete the series.

“What makes it more challenging is the longer you take to complete the actuarial exams, while working, the more responsibility you will have at work,” Ms Allen said. “The free time you have to focus on your exams gets less and less. There is definitely sacrifice involved.”

She started out doing a two-year actuarial programme at the Bermuda College, then went to Georgia State University.

“I had five friends who all went to Georgia State with me, after the Bermuda College,” she said. “Out of that, three went into P&C and two went into life, like I did.”

Growing up in the United States, Ms Oliveira’s mother inspired her to become an actuary.

Ms Oliveira said: “She majored in maths in school, and wanted to become an actuary herself.”

When Ms Oliveira entered college, Time magazine rated the actuarial profession as the top profession to go into because the stress was relatively low in ratio to the money paid.

She said it was a great career, but had a warning for young people considering going into actuarial science.

“It is not for the faint of heart,” Ms Oliveira said. “If you are an average student, the exams are probably going to be incredibly challenging. I never had less than an A in maths in high school and university, and they nearly killed me.”

Today, she sees only growth on the horizon for life insurance in Bermuda.

“The population is ageing,” she said. “So there is going to be more and more demand for our products, and more demand for actuaries.”

Nina Coetzer, actuarial director at Deloitte, also does not see the life insurance industry slowing down at all.

“New deals and start-ups are coming to the island at a rapid pace,” she stated, adding that one of the things driving the demand for actuaries on the island is a constantly changing regulatory environment.

“Companies need the necessary resources and skilled people to keep up with the changes,” she said.

AOB treasurer Steffin du Preez, Athene head of actuarial financial reporting, predicted that the life industry will continue to diversify over the next five years.

He said: “Recently, the life space has been focused on the asset side of the balance sheet, more on the long-term risks, and more on the liability side as well.”

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Published July 08, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated July 09, 2024 at 8:13 am)

Need for life insurance actuaries forecast to grow

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