Xavier University Actuarial Science - Tom Kelly

As part of ValuePenguin’s Future of Actuarial Science series, we will be interviewing students from top actuary programs across the nation to learn more about their experiences and paths towards a career as an actuary and the insurance industry. 

Tom Kelly (Class of 2014) is a Mathematics and Actuarial Science double major at Xavier University. During his time at XU, he has been recognized as a nominee for Xavier University's Goldwater Scholarship, and awarded the 2013 Corner-Reynolds Memorial Award for students excelling in the study of Statistics. We recently sat down with Tom to discuss his experience with Actuarial Science at Xavier.

What influenced you to pursue being an actuary?

I originally was studying to be a high school math teacher. Once I decided that wasn't for me, I tried to figure out what my mathematics background could do for me in Corporate America.  I came back to school the fall of my sophomore year and Xavier had just started its actuarial science program. In a way, actuarial science just kind of fell into my lap.  I've loved studying it ever since.

Why should other students consider a focus in Actuarial Science?

If you enjoy mathematics and analytical processes, actuarial science is definitely something students should consider. There are countless opportunities and a wide variety of career options to explore as an actuary.

What has been your experience with Actuarial Science at your college?

Xavier's program is relatively new, but it has already had amazing success. One of the requirements to graduate with an Actuarial Science degree from Xavier is to pass at least one exam. The professors have stayed late on certain nights to hold review sessions for some of the exams; it's one of the most welcoming and encouraging environments I've ever been a part of, but also the most demanding. It's comforting as well to be surrounded by students taking the exams with you who know what it's like and know what you're struggling with. Even some of the math professors are taking the preliminary exams with us. 

Have you participated in any internships, and if so, how many and how were they?

I've participated in two internships. Last summer I interned at Ameritas, a life insurance company in Cincinnati. There, I worked heavily in Microsoft Excel organizing inconsistent earned premium figures for one of their products.  

This summer I'm interning in the Chicago metropolitan area at Zurich North America, one of the biggest property & casualty insurers in the world. I work on the Workers' Compensation Pricing Team in the Product Underwriting department. I'm working on a variety of projects; right now I'm doing a lot of work analyzing loss development triangles and putting together comparisons of industry-wide data and Zurich-specific data for frequency and severity trend studies the pricing team looks at frequently.

Both of these internships are/were fantastic and have shown me two very different career paths actuaries can take: life/health and property & casualty. Both have its rewards and its challenges; I can't say which one I'd like to do for the rest of my life just yet!

Please share an interesting or little-known fact you've learned about the world of actuaries…

Actuaries are the backbone of any company that takes on financial risk; some of the work we do - whether it be in pricing, reserving, or strategic analysis - goes straight to the Chief Actuary, the CFO, or even the CEO. I've learned that being an actuary isn't just about loving math and the analytical processes we perform on a daily basis. It's about loving the work we do and feeling important and proud that our work could be seen directly by some of the biggest decision-makers of a business.

I've also learned that a lot of CFOs and CEOs at major insurance companies are fully credentialed actuaries, which I thought was pretty inspiring to me.

What are the latest developments or trends in Actuarial Sciences?

The Affordable Care Act and the Social Security debate are just two of the many. Actuarial roles are more in demand now that the ACA is law; it will be interesting to see the role the actuary takes in the years to come as a result.

What are your future aspirations and career plans?

I plan on becoming a fully credentialed actuary in either the Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries. I'd really like to be able to rotate around and gain different experiences working in different actuarial fields (pricing, reserving, etc.) early on in my career to get a feel for what I'd really like to do.

Anything else you’d like to share?

There are always running jokes about actuaries and a lot of them have to do with our personalities. We're exciting people we promise! We have personalities and we do more than just study for our exams - honestly!

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