CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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June 2017

Natalia Iwinski on the Challenges and Rewards of Being an Actuary

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Natalia Iwinski

1. Who inspired you to pursue an actuarial career?

The person who pushed me into this career was my undergraduate professor in my applied math program. I had only taken a couple of actuarial courses, but due to my professor’s passion for actuarial studies my interests were piqued and I decided to further explore this path. I applied to the graduate program in actuarial science and quickly realized that I made the right choice. 

2. What was your experience of the actuarial exams? Did you experience any particular challenges?

When I started my master’s program in actuarial science, I was just starting to learn how challenging and time-intensive the actuarial path really is. With no experience in actuarial exams, I had to quickly catch up to my colleagues in the program who had already passed a few exams.

Studying for my first exam was not only a challenge but also filled with doubts. However, approaching the challenge in a systematic way, with lots of perseverance, determination, and patience, paid off. From the perspective of time, I still feel it was not an easy path, but by setting small goals and moving step by step you can really achieve big results.    

3. How did you find the transition from being a student to becoming a young professional?

In my first traditional actuarial role I quickly learned that the theories that I had studied in my program and for the exams are actually used in practice. How exciting it was to know that your knowledge, still very theoretical at that time, could be applied to very complex projects. Obviously the transition from being a student to becoming an analyst was a challenge, but knowing that your knowledge is valuable and applicable is so rewarding that any challenges become more like opportunities and motivation to learn and grow.

4. What is your current professional role? Can you describe the type of work you’re doing?

Currently, I work as a pricing actuary, managing in-force life insurance products that are no longer available for sale. They include adjustable life insurance products, for which I perform regular reviews to determine whether any change to the policies’ adjustable features (e.g., premium or cash value) is needed. In this role I am able to see and compare a variety of life insurance products that have been sold over decades by different insurance providers.

5. What do you enjoy most about your job?

It is fascinating how the life insurance products, their design and pricing, have changed over the past few decades. In this job I am able to appreciate how the customers’ needs and the economic environment have evolved and how they have shaped the products that have been sold. It is a unique role with lots of opportunities and interesting projects. Every single day brings new learning opportunities, allowing me to further develop my problem-solving, communication, and analytical skills. I also really enjoy working with my non-actuarial partners, who always bring refreshing new perspectives to the work that I do.

6. Where do you see yourself professionally in 15 years?

In this career you never stop learning and growing. The number of opportunities for your career development is vast. I hope to continue to progressively pursue more responsible roles. What is equally important for me is to become a source of knowledge to others and be able to share my experiences and mentor new professionals.

7. What career would you follow if you weren’t an actuary?

I have a passion for healthy food and I can imagine myself having a healthy food store or being involved in an agribusiness co-op.

8. What are your hobbies?

I enjoy cooking and baking, discovering new tastes and recipes. I value quality and healthy ingredients that look back to the past, when slow food was the standard.

9. Where is your dream vacation destination?

For me it is about experiencing local food, culture, and customs but in a fairly laid-back and rustic-type atmosphere, typically what one might find in a European small town or countryside. 

10. What is your motto?

Just try and be passionate about doing it.

Natalia Iwinski is director, legacy life insurance pricing at Sun Life Financial.


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