Each month, we will feature a member of the Academy and share a glimpse into their professional and personal lives.
WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ACTUARY?
Around 1979, when I was graduating from Emory University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, my mother shared an article with me that she had read in Redbook magazine. The article explained that the actuarial career could provide excellent job opportunities for women. Redbook was mentioned in this actuarial reference from January 1980. I discovered that there was a program at Georgia State University in Atlanta, so I scheduled a meeting with Professor Robert Batten, who sketched out an exam plan for me and gave me the confidence to enter the graduate program. I earned a Master’s in Actuarial Science in 1982.
DESCRIBE A CHALLENGE YOU HAVE OVERCOME.
I worked in product development, and at the time there was a big push by A.L. Williams to “buy term and invest the difference.” This marketing concept pushed insurance companies to improve their whole life products and offer higher returns. Interest rates were high at that time. We developed an excess interest in whole life, and foresaw that there was a potential for producing illustrations of very high cash values at the time of sale, assuming current crediting rates would continue over the long term. At the time computers were very large, so our agents had a special handheld computer to print illustrations for prospects with variable interest rates.
We forced the illustration software in the handheld computer to show the guaranteed returns first and made sure that projections could not be separated. For the current/other credited rate illustrations, we added consumer warnings to focus on the guarantees. At the time, we did much of our own programming in Basic to compare the “buy term and invest the difference” projections with our excess interest whole life product and to cross-check the software results extensively before launching the product. It took extra time before releasing the software, and in spite of much pressure from the sales force, we took many extra steps so that the illustrations would not be likely to mislead consumers.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST ABOUT BEING AN ACTUARY?
I respect other actuaries and have enjoyed working with so many great actuaries who have helped me, giving suggestions to overcome stumbling blocks when I had (and still have) questions.
SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I love traveling. My last fun trip was with my daughter to meet friends in New York City in the fall of 2019. During the pandemic, some trips were canceled, but I’ve enjoyed taking lots of long walks and painting in my spare time.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH YOUNG ACTUARIES?
Consult older actuaries for advice, because they have a sense of fundamental and foundational principles and can make good estimations. Being able to judge the reasonableness of rates and other output that may come from complicated software is hard-earned talent that comes from many years of work.