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Actuarial science - a profession for women with a passion for maths in South Africa’s financial services industry

09 September 2019 Serapelo Mofokeng, Head of Transformation at MiWay
MiWay’s Female Actuaries - Left front – Cornel Smit Left back – Maria Phooko Right front - Helen Yao Right back – Peggy Lekalakala

MiWay’s Female Actuaries - Left front – Cornel Smit Left back – Maria Phooko Right front - Helen Yao Right back – Peggy Lekalakala

If you have a head for numbers, the ability to interpret statistics and ‘blue-sky thinking’ to develop mathematical models that can predict trends and events, the profession of actuary might appeal to you.

In a country beset by unemployment, virtually all actuaries are employed - a situation that has not changed since the then President-elect of the Actuarial Society of South Africa commented on this phenomenon in 2015.

In 2016, the fact that 322 (or 21.8%) of registered actuaries were women was a matter of pride. It was a far call from 1955 when Pat Potgieter (née Wood) became South Africa’s first woman to qualify as an actuary, and then become a Fellow member of the UK Faculty of Actuaries.
Today, building on the fact that more women than ever before are studying actuarial science one thing is certain and that is that many more actuaries will be women.

There is no doubt that transformation is speeding up in the financial sector. As it does so, the summits of achievement - once unattainable for many – are now open at the highest levels, particularly in the insurance sector. It is here, where actuaries are central to risk management and operate at the core of the business, that signs of transformation should be most apparent.

MiWay Insurance is proud to be showing the way with its female actuaries - Cornel Smit, Maria Phooko, Helen Yao and Peggy Lekalakala.

The team sums up the profession as being challenging but it allows them to think differently and have the ability to apply this thinking style to everyday problems.

Women bring a different perspective to issues and problems. In a job that was recently described as using a mix of ‘financial engineering, social science, statistics, financial mathematics and economics to solve complex business problems’, it is these unique perspectives that help transform a profession and a workplace.

Understanding the regulatory environment impacting on insurance, how data science and technology will change the world of short-term insurance requires that actuaries are always aware of the world around them and factor these developments into their calculations.

What should never be lost sight of within the insurance industry, is that there is also the element of acting in the public interest that needs to be incorporated within the terms of reference of an already complex profession.

Devising and recommending structures for financial products means creating competitive, value-added services that benefit not only employers but the broader base of customers who access products daily.

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