What It’s Like Being an Actuary

July 8, 2022|Kurtis Thompson

Name: Kurtis Thompson
Designations: ASA, MAAA
Position: Consulting Actuary
Education: Bachelor of Science in Mathematics
Location: Colchester, Connecticut
Years at Odyssey: 9 years

How Does Someone Interested in a Career as an Actuary Get Started?

To start an Actuarial career, you need to pass exams. Having a math or business background is certainly helpful, but not necessary. If someone can pass Actuarial exams, they can get into the field. Our team includes those who studied Actuarial Math in college but also includes a former teacher and a data analyst. Be an Actuary is the best place to go if you’re interested in digging deeper into how to get started pursuing an Actuarial career.

Describe Your Job and Day-To-Day Responsibilities

The Actuarial field is all about managing risks. As Pension and Benefit actuaries, we help businesses and towns understand and manage the risk associated with pensions and other post-employment benefits that they have promised to their employees.

A typical day might include working on a report to help a Town understand how much the retirement benefits they’ve promised employees are expected to cost in the future and how they can prepare for those costs today. We might have an impromptu meeting to discuss a problem someone is running into with one of their projects, a phone conversation with a business owner who wants to save for retirement and help them start setting up a pension plan or 401(k), or we might have a meeting to explain the results of our analysis to a school district so that the business manager can plan for the future.

We have plenty of time for internal and independent work punctuated by collaboration as a team and interaction with our clients.

How Did Your Education Prepare You for Your Role at Odyssey Advisors?

I had three focuses in college: a major in Actuarial Mathematics and double minors in Finance and Business Administration. That background has been extremely helpful in my career. Actuarial Mathematics helped me understand the skills and methods used by Actuaries. Finance and Business Administration helped me understand how business and the markets work so that I could better apply the Actuarial knowledge to business situations.

The business administration focus has also been extremely helpful in communicating with managers and business owners. I don’t have to be just a number-crunching math person but can help people understand the high-level mathematical concepts in a way that is educational and actionable for them.

What Skills Are Essential to Be Successful as an Actuary?

A mathematical mindset is a key skill. While the computer does the lion’s share of high-level calculations these days, an actuary must be able to understand high-level mathematical concepts and explain them clearly to an audience that may not be as savvy with math.

On that note, communication skills are also necessary to be successful. An actuary who can communicate in a way that helps clients, managers, sales teams, etc. understand a difficult concept, sets themselves up to advance within their career.

What Is the Best Part About Being an Actuary?

The best part about my career is helping people solve their complex financial problems. Seeing people understand their financial situation better is rewarding for me. Facing challenging new problems to solve is also something I enjoy. It’s not always the same thing repeatedly and there are unique situations and problems that come up often and keep things interesting.

What Is the Most Challenging Part of Being an Actuary?

Passing exams is very challenging. Many people start the process and never finish because the exams knock them out.

Any Advice for Someone Who Wants to Go Into the Actuarial Field?

Do well in your math classes and keep taking more of them. Do some job shadowing or internships to get a familiarity with the field before you get into it. Start working to pass an exam or two by the time you finish school and are looking for a job. Don’t get too narrowly focused. Actuaries are known for their math skills, but understanding diverse fields like finance, business, and economics is extremely helpful.

Kurtis Thompson is a consulting actuary at Odyssey Advisors in Colchester, Connecticut. Odyssey provides professional services such as other post-employment benefits (OPEB) plan valuations, retirement plan design and administration, and consulting for municipalities, small business owners, financial advisors, and municipal auditors. Kurtis has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Bryant University and is a member of the American Academy of Actuaries and an Associate in the Society of Actuaries. He’s worked here at Odyssey Advisors since 2013.

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