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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Each month, we will feature a member of the Academy and share a glimpse into their professional and personal lives.

PETER OTT

Practice Area: Property/Casualty 

WHAT IS YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE OR PRACTICE AREA?

For whatever reason, my actuarial career has always been focused on property-related business. I started in admitted lines pricing small business and farm owners policies. I’ve also gotten to dabble in catastrophe modeling and treaty reinsurance underwriting. At the moment, I’m focusing on property treaty reinsurance across the globe.

WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME AN ACTUARY? AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PROFESSION?

Like many in the profession, I did not originally plan to be an actuary. I was originally a high school math teacher. I missed working on interesting math problems and I had some college friends who had become actuaries. What has kept me in the profession are the interesting problems I get to work on. I enjoy tackling problems where the data is scarce, and you need to be a bit clever or rely on judgment. For whatever reason, my actuarial career has always been focused on property-related business. I started in admitted lines, pricing small business and farm owners policies. I’ve also gotten to dabble in catastrophe modeling and treaty reinsurance underwriting. At the moment, I’m focusing on property treaty reinsurance across the globe.

DESCRIBE A PROFESSIONALISM-RELATED CHALLENGE THAT YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR CAREER. HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?

Fortunately, I have not had to face any particularly tricky professionalism-related challenges. However, I’ve probably spent more time than most reading ASOP [Actuarial Standard of Practice] No. 30 [Treatment of Profit and Contingency Provisions and the Cost of Capital in Property/Casualty Insurance Ratemaking]. Profit margins are a tricky concept when you peel back the onion and really question what the margin is supposed to be encompassing.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER? 

I had some really great actuaries help guide my education and career, but one thing I would have liked to have been advised on is how to take a step back from the algorithms of the actuarial techniques and understand the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish. It’s easy to get stuck in the rhythm of an algorithm you’ve memorized for the exam, but truly understanding the subtle assumptions and pitfalls is extremely important.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

This goes back to one of my previous responses, but it’s crucial you can be self-critical and question your assumptions. If the actuarial methods tell you one thing but the raw data is saying something else, you must be critical of yourself and understand where your assumptions went wrong. You also need to know when to seek out others for their expertise; the actuarial literature will only take you so far.

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WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST ABOUT YOUR ACADEMY MEMBERSHIP?

 

For me, it’s been about the impact I’ve been able to have on providing quality information to policymakers. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise in the actuarial community, and it’s been rewarding to work with others outside of my own practice to help others make informed decisions.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE ANYTHING ELSE WITH ASPIRING OR NEW ACTUARIES, OR THOSE INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING FOR THE ACADEMY? 

It’s important to stay curious and to keep learning from other disciplines. From my volunteer work, I’ve learned so much more about climate change and climate-related risks—and that’s made me a better actuary. Humans have been trying to manage risk and grapple with uncertainty since the dawn of time; look in other areas to see how risk can be viewed from a different angle.

SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES OR OTHER PERSONAL INTERESTS? 

I’ve dabbled in a lot of things over the years. I’ve taken lessons on book binding, clothing pattern making, and I’m always looking for a new recipe to try. I used to stress bake while studying for my exams so you can ask my old coworkers about my baked goods! My longest-running hobby, though, is playing the traditional Korean instrument, the gayageum. My grandmother is from Korea and learning to play this instrument over the past nine years has been a way for me to connect with my heritage.

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