Calculated choices: Allstate Vice President Steven Armstrong offers career advice to actuarial students
Steven Armstrong, FCAS, MAAA, vice president of Allstate and president of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), met with and gave a presentation to MSOE actuarial science students and faculty to share his insight on the industry.
Yvonne Yaz, actuarial science program director and professor in the Mathematics Department, arranged the meeting and presentation. She credits MSOE’s connection with Armstrong to former and recent students who interned and currently work for Allstate.
“This is an indication of how much respect Allstate, one of the giants of property and casualty insurance, has for our programs and our students. This makes me proud as the program director,” said Yaz.
Before his presentation, Armstrong met with a small group of students and faculty to discuss MSOE’s growing program and the future of the insurance industry. He probed students for their opinions on the future of actuarial science, exams, high job demand and discussed their preferred tools for data work. As many of the senior students in the group were pondering job offers for after graduation, they had the unique opportunity to ask Armstrong his opinions on the industry. Armstrong offered advice and gave anecdotes of his past job experiences.
“Where is your head at on these offers? Have you gained a solid understanding of the company culture?” Armstrong emphasized the importance of company culture and how it can truly change the way you work. The group also weighed the pros and cons of working in insurance versus consulting.
The group proceeded to discuss the job market and how they’re navigating it. “Actuaries made the Forbes list as one of the ‘best jobs’ and now it’s the hot job that everyone wants,” said actuarial science senior Amanda Mickelson.
“Competition is fierce,” said Yaz, noting students who had letters of recommendation but weren’t hired because they hadn’t completed all their actuarial exams at the time of the interview.
Because of this high interest and abundance of graduates seeking employment, there is a greater supply than demand for new graduates to fill positions. To make it easier for hiring managers to navigate resumes, the credentials are harder to meet and there is a strong reliance on exams so employers can easily filter through applicants and determine who they want to bring in for an interview.
“If it makes you feel better, I had to take 16 exams, not 10,” said Armstrong.
With multiple exams coming from two different societies, it’s difficult for the department to specialize course offerings. Yaz explained how MSOE implements tools and projects into course work that immerse students into the problems and offers real world industry examples to prepare students for the future. Yaz plans to implement more questions on current events to keep students abreast of what’s happening in the world and how to apply what they learn in class to real examples.
These efforts are paying off. MSOE’s actuarial science students currently exceed the global average pass rate for these types of exams. For the 2018-19 academic year, 91% of the students who took Exam FM-Financial Mathematics passed the exam, while 83.3% passed Exam P-Probability on their first attempt. The average pass rate for exam-takers for Exam P is 48%, and for Exam FM 53% (actuary-lookup.com).
As for the senior students on their job quests, Armstrong said, “You can’t go wrong no matter what you decide!”