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Unearthing Actuarial skills

29 August 2018Myra Knoesen
Fhatuwani Nemakhavhani

Fhatuwani Nemakhavhani

Amogelang Kgaladi

Amogelang Kgaladi

One of the benefits of being in the insurance industry is the opportunity for professional growth.

By investing in the growth and development of individuals, the industry can grow, and sustainability can be reached to supplement the quality of scarce and critical skills.

Actively addressing the problem

The South African Actuaries Development Programme (SAADP), an independent, non-profit company that was established with the backing of Sasria SOC Limited, seeks to actively address the problem of the acute shortage of Actuarial skills in the black community in South Africa.

The SAADP does this by unearthing and harnessing mathematical and analytical skills amongst black students in order to expose and help them to capitalise on career opportunities in the field of Actuarial Science.

By creating greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of Actuarial Science as a field of study, after careful selection, students receive a comprehensive bursary and support for their studies over a four-year period. The entire process, from selection through to graduation, is carefully structured so as to serve the objectives of the programme. To date, the SAADP has produced 44 qualified actuaries.

The numbers speak for themselves

FAnews spoke to Nokwanda Mkhize, Executive Director at SAADP, about the skills shortage in the industry and what needs to be done to encourage more individuals to enter this field.

“To date, according to the work place skills plans of the three Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) - Inseta, Fasset and Bankseta, Actuarial Science is still declared a scarce skill. Recent reports by the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) show that South Africa has 109 black African fellow Actuaries, compared to the 974 white fellow Actuaries. Thus, one may say the numbers speak for themselves,” she says. 

“At its inception in 2003, SAADP’s main mandate was to significantly increase the number of fellow black South African Actuaries in South Africa. Since then, 44 of the 109 black African fellow Actuaries (qualified under ASSA), are a product of the SAADP. Looking at these numbers and at the SAADP’s transformational agenda, there is indeed still a lot of work to be done in levelling the playing field as far as the Actuarial industry demographics are concerned,” she continues. 

Addressing the SAADP Annual Alumni Gala Dinner, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa said although the programme in South Africa had achieved a lot since it was launched, much more needed to be done to still realise the vision initially set. 

Robust awareness is needed

“With the growing global economy and the related technological advancements and trends in the insurance and risk management sector, there is indeed a need for the high-level technical risk management knowledge that Actuaries offer. Moreover, the skills that Actuaries hold, cross-cut amongst various business platforms globally,” says Mkhize. 

“Thus, robust awareness building initiatives at school level in previously disadvantaged communities is needed. Continual funding of this talent at university level is also required, coupled with availing employment opportunities at a later stage after graduation, and continued support to graduates in writing their board examinations till they qualify as fellows,” she says. 

Mkhize believes investing in the improvement of the school level mathematical and physical science skills in the black communities is critical for the industry to increase the number of students entering these fields of study. Further on, by building strong partnership with the likes of the SAADP, in bringing about awareness around the Actuarial profession and in funding initiatives geared towards transforming the profession. 

“With their high-level technical skills, not only can Actuaries play a significant role in the financial risk sector, but they can be very instrumental in various other business sectors, like investment,” she says.

With the South African economic future depending very much on the growing need of Actuaries, it will be very beneficial for the brokers and advisers to always ‘pay it forward’. This they can do in two folds, firstly by using their outstanding skills to ensure future stability of the South African economy and secondly, by mentoring those who are entering this much competitive and demanding industry,” she concluded.

A few inspiring stories

Fhatuwani Nemakhavhani, born and bred in a rural village of Tswinga in the Limpopo province, was fortunate to receive a bursary from the SAADP which funded all her tertiary studies. She qualified as an Actuary in 2017 as the first black female South African Actuary from the University of Pretoria. She currently works for Absa Life as an Actuarial Manager responsible for the valuation of Absa’s Life Insurance entities in the rest of Africa. She is also the current president of ASABA (Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals).

Amogelang Kgaladi’s actuarial journey started in 2012, with no funding and parents who wanted him to pursue an Engineering qualification.

“In black families the ideal career has always been to either be a Lawyer, Engineer or Doctor hence the insistence from my family. You can imagine the shock when they heard that I want to be an Actuary… a profession they did not know. When they heard “insurance” they thought that I would be selling life policies. However, this chapter of my journey culminates in me being the Head of Corporate Actuarial at FNB Insure. This is all down to hard work, determination, prayer, a bit of luck, perseverance and most importantly, the financial, emotional and mentorship support that was provided by all involved in the SAADP. A programme that aims to increase the number of black Actuaries in the country and one which took in a rough diamond like myself, gave me a chance that so many individuals with potential often lack and ultimately produced a polished Actuary. For that I remain eternally grateful and indebted to my SAADP family,” he said.

Editor’s Thoughts:
As Mkhize mentioned, Actuaries play a significant role in the financial risk sector and strong partnerships with the likes of the SAADP are important to bring about awareness around the Actuarial profession. Do you agree? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts myra@fanews.co.za.

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