Each month, we will feature a member of the Academy and share a glimpse into their professional and personal lives.
Specialty: Risk Management and Financial Reporting
WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME AN ACTUARY? AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PROFESSION?
I never knew the word “actuary” until after I graduated from college. After graduating and getting married, I was looking for a job and deciding what to do. One day my husband told me that one of his friends, who had graduated from the same college with same major as me, was thinking about becoming an actuary, which led me to begin looking into the actuarial profession. I went to a local actuarial club and they were very helpful. After some further research, I found that the actuarial profession could be a good fit for me. I wanted to do something that would reflect my interest in business and mathematics, and was pretty good at passing exams. However, when I was an entry-level actuarial student, I was not sure this was the path I wanted to pursue, because I was also training to become a performance pianist! Finally, I had to make a choice and decided to become a full-time actuary. I am pleased with the choice I made and continue my passion of playing piano in my free time.
DESCRIBE A PROFESSIONALISM-RELATED CHALLENGE THAT YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR CAREER. HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?
One of my staff members once sent me a recommendation report on an actuarial decision. The recommendation simply followed the practice that had been followed for years. But as I thought about signing onto the recommended approach, I found I didn’t feel comfortable with it, even though it followed the established practice. So, based on my actuarial experience and judgment, I said, “Let’s not do it that way; let’s look at it again and redo it.” I still don’t regret that decision.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER?
I held a technical job early in my career in a valuation department developing tables with policy data for reserve calculation or supporting financial reporting preparation assisting my supervisor. If someone had explained the bigger picture and offered a broader understanding of my job—how the tables I created or values I calculated were used, what was the final production from them, who else was using the data I prepared and how it was used—that would have helped me understand and appreciate the overall processes and operations as well as any inter-department relations.
TELL US ABOUT A TIME WHERE YOUR ACTUARIAL EXPERTISE INFLUENCED AN IMPORTANT DECISION IN YOUR WORKPLACE.
This relates to health rate development. The federal government proposed that each state could develop their own rate development factors if the state thinks their experience differed from the national average. My director was interested in this newly proposed approach and asked me to look into it. I found that in the short term, the approach may have a direct impact on rates and certain related values, but in the longer term the comprehensive gross impact would not be as material. So, I advised my director that based on my analysis it was not worth investing our time and effort in developing our own rate development factors. He was impressed with my broad point of view and agreed.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS YOU’VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?
Don’t be afraid of challenges. If something new comes up, you might tend to stick to where you are and where you are comfortable. Don’t stay where you are. You have the capacity to learn and try. You can gain more by exposing yourself to broader areas or on emerging issues—today, for example, with such issues as climate risk and big data or, earlier in my career, ERM [enterprise risk management]. I am pretty happy to jump into new areas.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE ANYTHING ELSE WITH ASPIRING OR NEW ACTUARIES, OR THOSE INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING FOR THE ACADEMY?
I highly recommend volunteering with the Academy! It’s another example of not being afraid of a new challenge. Get involved in areas you are interested in—even if it is outside of your comfort zone—it allows you opportunities to learn, expand your network, and enlarge your knowledge, while also enlightening yourself.
SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES OR OTHER PERSONAL INTERESTS?
I still love to play the piano, and once I retire hope to return to playing drums, too! I have been working on my skating skills, and during the pandemic period I developed a new knitting hobby. In fact, I’m wearing a sweater I knitted!
Seong-min Eom is a valued volunteer with the Academy and serves as the vice chairperson of the Data Science and Analytics Committee. She recently contributed to the Big Data and Algorithms in Actuarial Modeling and Consumer Impacts public policy paper.
This resource provides a framework for consumers, regulators, legislators, insurers, and actuaries seeking to better understand how the increased use of big data and algorithms is impacting insurance, and some of the challenges the changes are creating.
"In 25 years, I can honestly say my job has never been boring. It has been complicated, intimidating, even frustrating, but I continue to learn and to find satisfaction in the topics that I continue to learn about."
"Career ups and downs are inevitable. Taking the long view is likely to make some short-term challenges less stressful—and it can also enable us to judge the situation with a clear mind."
"Volunteering is a great way to learn more and work with amazing, skilled, and knowledgeable professionals who will make you a better actuary."