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Seeing Opportunities in Risks

February 4, 2013 | Campus News

In 2008, the world experienced a financial crisis which has been described as the worst in 75-years.

Looking back, there are many factors which contributed to the crash, not the least being shoddy risk management. In a report by the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released in 2011, it revealed that “The captains of finance….ignored warnings and failed to question, understand and manage evolving risks…”

Subsequently, more and more companies have bolstered their focus on risk management and prospective projections.

The people responsible for coming up with prospective projections which will steer a company, should the financial waters turn uncertain and risky, are actuaries.

Looking to the past to secure the future, their contributions are invaluable and their job is considered a ‘zero unemployment profession’.

To obtain the best people for the job, the actuary profession is one of the most regulated.

One must pass professional examinations and various on-the-job assessments, in addition to obtaining a degree.

Understanding the profession’s stringent requirements, UCSI University sought the knowledge and experiences of Dr Ngerng Miang Hong and Dr Toh Kian Kok to manage and design its BSc (Hons) Actuarial Science.

The result: A course that provides students with a world-class degree in line with the requirements of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) – the largest professional organisation for actuaries in the world. On top of that, the course also grooms students to have the rigorous capacity to ace the professional examinations they are required to sit for.

“Students require only three years of full-time study to prepare them for the professional examinations and on-the-job assessments during the span of their careers,” says Dr Toh, who is the Dean of UCSI University’s Faculty of Business and Information Science.

“It is a heavy responsibility for us as we want to ensure that within their three years with us, we prepare them for the next 30-years or more of their career.”

The journey to become a qualified actuary as outlined by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) – one of the most prominent professional organisation for actuaries in the world - is divided into four stages.

The first is the Validated by Educational Experience stage where students who receive grades of 70% and above for subjects in economics, corporate finance and applied statistics – will receive credit for these professional papers.

The second stage involves five preliminary exams that candidates must pass before proceeding to the penultimate stage, namely, the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practices course and the Associateship Professionalism Course (APC). This will qualify them as an Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA).

The final hurdle would be to qualify as a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA).

While UCSI University’s Actuarial Science related programmes follow SOA guidelines, Dr Toh points out that the University has a trump card that separates it from the competition.

“Our focus on preparing the students for the professional examinations has helped them to familiarise themselves with the examinations and enabled them to perform well.”

 “As testament to our efforts, we have students who passed three out of five preliminary exams when they were still in their second year. This is a remarkable feat which we are proud of.

“The good response we have received has given us the confidence to launch the new BSc (Hons) Actuarial Science and Finance programme and we are confident our programmes will play an important role in meeting the human capital needs of the country.”

Brains and Leadership

While technical knowledge is undoubtedly important for an actuary, knowledge alone does not make a good actuary.

In Dr Ngerng’s view, a sterling reputation and an upright character sets actuaries apart from other brilliant minds.

“For example, while other members of the management board could be inclined to extract more immediate profit in order to boost their apparent contributions to the company, an actuary has to safeguard the policyholders’ interest,” he explains.

“Are the reserves enough to honour all future claims? This is what an actuary asks and finds out before approving the figures for the company’s annual profit.

Additionally, UCSI University’s BSc (Hons) Actuarial Science programme also places a great emphasis on leadership skills which are crucial to climb up the ranks of an organisation.

Unlike technical knowledge, leadership is not something that can be taught – it has to be learnt from experience.

Thus, UCSI University’s Praxis approach – a unique pedagogy that blends university education with workplace experience – is one that will give its students a competitive edge.

Under this approach, students are required to obtain a minimum of two months of internship experience at the end of each academic year.

For students of UCSI University’s Actuarial Science programmes, the University has arranged for them to intern at prominent multinational corporations in order to increase their international exposure.

These include Tokio Marine – the largest property/casualty insurance group in Japan, Uni.Asia General Insurance – a premier insurer in Malaysia, and Citibank.

Students are also exposed to industry expectations via part-time lecturers who are qualified practicing actuaries.

Going one step further, UCSI University’s Actuarial Science programmes groom students to become some of the brightest actuaries and most trustworthy leaders, capable of steering companies through uncertainties and risks.

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