Spotlight on New Fellows – Nirmala Veerappen

   Nirmala Veerappen 

1. Why did you become an actuary?

I’ve always enjoyed math and problem-solving, and wanted to pursue a career in business. I liked the fact that actuaries could influence important strategic decisions made by companies and governments and also have a positive impact on the financial security of the public.

2. Who inspired you to pursue an actuarial career?

I met an actuary when I was in high school, who explained that actuaries can work in specialist areas of insurance, pensions, benefits, health care, and investments, and play a critical role in managing risk. The idea of combining math and statistical knowledge with business acumen really attracted me to the field.

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

After getting my ASA (Associate of the Society of Actuaries), I took a break from exams. Getting back into writing exams was pretty challenging, but I’m glad that I persisted. It had a lot more to do with confidence and focus than I had originally realized.

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

I missed the free time and flexibility of student life. You’ve got to enjoy it while you have it!

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

I’m currently working in the risk management area of RGA’s global financial solutions division out of the Toronto office. I manage a team that is responsible for the risk and inforce management of the RGA’s longevity and structured finance transactions.

6. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the diversity of my role. Managing a block of business from a risk and financial perspective, where each transaction is complex and unique, has challenged me to continue to learn, and provided an opportunity to develop new processes and analyses. I also enjoy the communication aspects of the role, whether it’s in coaching staff or the regular interactions I have with RGA local offices around the world.

7. What are your short-term career ambitions?

In the short-term, I’d like to continue to develop my newly formed team as well as deepen my knowledge with respect to longevity risk.

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

I’m still pretty open to the possibilities. I think I’ll be happy as long as I continue to learn and develop my skill set. I also think it would be a great experience to serve on the board of a small organization or charity someday, as it will allow me to apply my knowledge and skills in a broader context.

9. What has been your involvement with the CIA since obtaining your FCIA designation?

In 2013, I joined the CIA Editorial Panel as Vice-chair, where I contributed to the development and launch of the quarterly e-publication series called Seeing Beyond Risk, and then earlier this year, I assumed the Chair position. I found both roles to be very rewarding and have learned a lot.

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

It may seem like an unlikely pairing, but I’ve always been passionate about fashion, and had seriously considered a career as a fashion designer. But my passion is really more about design, so I could have easily chosen to be an architect as well.

11. What are your hobbies?

I enjoy being active and outdoors, so hiking, kayaking, and SUP (stand-up paddle) boarding. I also enjoy doing projects at the cottage. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention shopping!

12. Where is your dream vacation destination?

I love travelling, so it’s tough to choose. A few years ago, I hiked through the Andes to Machu Picchu, and would have loved to go to the Galápagos Islands as well, but I didn’t have enough time. I’d like to go back and see the Galápagos Islands someday. That said, I’d also love to go to the Polynesian islands, Norwegian fjords, or sail from country to country in the Mediterranean . . . there’s just so much to see!

13. What is your motto?

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." – Albert Einstein

Nirmala Veerappen is assistant vice-president and actuary, risk management, global financial solutions at RGA.

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Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires