The actuary is one of the profiles most in demand and with the greatest employability rates these days. But the chances of completing higher studies specialized in this discipline in Latin America are very limited. For this reason, Fundación MAPFRE collaborates with the Carolina Foundation to grant fellowships to students in LATAM so they can pursue postgraduate actuarial studies at different Spanish universities.
TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER IMAGES: ALBERTO CARRASCO
Hari Seldon, a famous mathematician who lived between 11,988 and 12,069 of the Galactic Era, was the creator of psychohistory, a branch of science capable of predicting future events with astonishing accuracy based on a study of large data sets. This character, fruit of the imagination of the grand master of science fiction Isaac Asimov, anticipated in his monumental Foundation series the predictive power of large-scale data analysis, long before we would hear talk of Big Data or Analytics. Actually, there is a professional specialty which, for a long time now, has been doing precisely this in the field of insurance and financial products, and which perhaps served as an inspiration to Asimov himself. We are referring to the actuary profession.
According to the Society of Actuaries (SOA), one of the functions of an actuary is to assess the probability of future events by using numbers, mathematical models and computational technologies. “The actuary is a professional who quantifies risk in different environments, one of which is the insurance business. They are the experts who perform statistical calculations for determining the premium, gauging technical provisions or modeling the insurance risk,” is how Laila Krause, from MAPFRE’s Corporate Actuarial Area, summarizes their role.
The work of actuaries is not new at all. Its origins date back to 1774, the year in which the English insurance company The Equitable hired the mathematician William Morgan as an assistant actuary. The technological developments in recent years have revolutionized actuarial methods, raising this discipline to previously unimaginable levels. “Actuarial techniques have become more sophisticated with the introduction of Big Data and artificial intelligence into their statistical models,” explains Krause. These new capabilities have enabled these professionals to transcend mere statistical or mathematical quantification, bringing added value to a host of different fields.
La capacidad de los actuarios para inferir modelos predictivos a partir del análisis de datos convierte a estos profesionales en imprescindibles para la toma de decisiones
Studies confirm that the actuarial profession is one of the careers with the greatest employability, a trend that is presumably set to increase in the next few years. Over 300 actuaries are currently working in MAPFRE. The fact is that, by its very nature, the insurance industry needs people with mathematical and statistical profiles able to monetize its analyses.
But the actuarial science is not only useful for insurance companies. “New niche markets are opening up for our profession in sectors other than insurance, where many companies are seeking data scientists to offer them support in their decision-making processes,” Krause points out. However, the current volatility of the markets means that the work of these professionals is increasingly complex. In this context, continuous training is vital to ensure that these data-fueled oracles remain effective as the guarantors of optimum business decisions.
Fundación MAPFRE is committed to training
“From our very origins, and over all these years, we have developed a full range of specialized insurance study programs: from short courses to graduate and postgraduate programs, including doctorates” recalls Mercedes Sanz, manager of Fundación MAPFRE’s Insurance & Social Protection Area. Within this context, in 2015 Fundación MAPFRE launched a collaborative project with the Carolina Foundation consisting in granting fellowships to students in LATAM to enable them to pursue postgraduate actuarial studies at different Spanish universities.
The Carolina Foundation fellowships are an initiative that, since the year 2000, strives to “promote cultural relations, as well as educational and scientific collaboration, between Spain and Latin America,” explains its coordinator María José Sáez. At present, the immediate horizon for this program is the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These fellowships therefore provide educational and research opportunities in all the fields of the 2030 Agenda. One of them focuses on improving the regulation and supervision of the international financial institutions and markets, as well as strengthening the application of these regulations. And the actuaries have a big part to pla y in achieving this objective.
The close relations MAPFRE maintains with Latin America, where it is present in virtually the entire continent, places it in an enviable position to contribute to the advancement of actuarial studies in that part of the world. Despite the fact that, in some countries such as Mexico, Brazil or Argentina, there indeed exists actuarial activity at the professional level, the possibilities of taking higher education courses specializing in this discipline in Latin America are highly limited, and practically non-existent when it comes to postgraduate studies.
Thanks to this collaboration between Fundación MAPFRE and the Carolina Foundation, the selected Latin American students are benefiting from fellowships for postgraduate studies in Actuarial Sciences at the Universities of Alcalá, Barcelona and Carlos III in Madrid. One of the requirements of these programs, which have a duration of two years, is that, upon completion, their beneficiaries must return to their countries of origin and apply their newlyacquired knowledge there. As María José Sáez explains, we can thus ensure that “this cooperation is more effective and is of real value to these countries.”
Fundación MAPFRE supports the development of these professionals as a tool to help the professionalization of the sector and, through the contribution of the insurance industry, contribute value to society. Because, as Mercedes Sanz concludes, “we want to do our bit in favor of quality education, fully in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the actuary is a profile in great demand, with a tremendous future, a 21st century profession in this Big Data era.”
The views of those concerned
29 years old. Colombia: Industrial Engineer. 1st year fellow. Carlos III University in Madrid.
I was always really drawn to the financial-economic area, yet linked to engineering and mathematics, and the actuarial activity ties in very well with that. In my country, I launched a project as an entrepreneur to tackle the difficulty of predicting behaviors based on the uncertainty of the available data. My objective is to continue with my entrepreneurial project and implement a lot of know-how that is not fully developed in my country. Colombia is a growing economy with many opportunities, and many areas remain unexplored. This master’s degree offers us a fabulous opportunity to delve deeper into them.
32 years old. Ecuador. Mathematician. 1st year fellow. Carlos III University in Madrid.
The first person who recommended the actuarial specialty to me was my thesis director. I had not heard about it, but, as chance would have it, I ended up working in the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute, precisely in the actuarial division. I gradually became more involved in the statistical and data area. I specialized in life tables and I loved it. In Ecuador there are no courses in this specialty, and yet companies need these professionals. That’s why I believe this is a great opportunity, in both labor and academic terms. One of my goals, as I stated in my letter of presentation to Fundación MAPFRE and the Carolina Foundation, is to be a pioneer in this field in my country, paving the way for other compatriots to complete actuarial studies in Ecuador.
24 years old. Mexico. Electronic and Telecoms Engineer. 1st year fellow. Carlos III University in Madrid.
This experience marks a real turning point in my life. In fact, they offered me a scholarship for one of the best universities in my country and I turned it down, as studying in Spain was my dream. My college professors had spoken to me about Spain and the actuarial specialty. When I received this fellowship, it was as though I’d won the lottery. For me, this opportunity really opens the door to personal advancement and a better future. Things are complicated in my country. Of the 50 most violent cities in the world, 15 are in Mexico. One of them is mine, Tijuana. On completing this master’s degree, I’d like to return home, teach what I’ve learned here, give classes and participate in projects which can help society.
Alex Efrén Pérez Tatamués
29 years old. Ecuador. Mathematical Engineer. 2nd year fellow. University of Alcalá.
Regarding this course, I’d underscore the tremendous expertise of my professors, on both the academic and the practical application front. What we see on this course is what we’re going to be implementing later in our work. I’ll take away valuable insight as regards how to apply actuarial know-how to an insurance company or in a Social Security or social protection institution. I believe that ensuring the sustainability of pension funds or retirement schemes is crucial for all countries. Another aspect that concerns me – and motivates me – is the need to create laws that better regulate the insurance industry. One of my professional goals for the future is precisely to try to implement these regulations and thus address the social protection problem in my country.