Interview with Julia Krath, ERGO
1. What made you decide to become an actuary?
When I started studying business mathematics after my Abitur (German secondary school leaving examinations) , I had never heard of the German Association of Actuaries or the profession of actuary. As a part-time job, I worked for a broker association and programmed their website and filled it with content. That's how I first came across the insurance industry and heard about actuaries for the first time. In my Master's program, I was then able to take actuarial seminars. These lectures were given by actuaries and I realized how complex the job is. So, it quickly became clear to me: After I graduate, I'm going to work in an insurance company and do actuarial training.
2. In which actuarial fields have you worked so far in your career and what are the main tasks in your current position?
This question made me smile, as I am convinced that actuaries can work almost anywhere in the insurance industry and contribute their know-how. After my trainee year at a large German life insurer, I was the only mathematician and prospective actuary in Operations. This is probably a less classical area for an actuary. I continued to interface with product development, IT and the actuarial department thanks to my mathematical understanding. I also worked with the actuarial department to develop a forecasting tool for document volumes in Operations, based on Prophet data. After that, I moved back closer to mathematics and joined product development as a team leader. There I piloted innovative products with a small team. Another milestone was my responsibility for a product development team, which dealt exclusively with commission models and their impact on the sales and stability of life insurance. More recently, I have been a product owner for CLP and have been particularly involved in projects. So, you can see: actuarial know-how is very versatile.
Today, I work for ERGO and am head of the department for proposition management in occupational pensions. My core tasks are, of course, management and the further development of my subject area. As a manager, you work a little less on content, but much more strategically. Here, too, the DAV training helps immensely, because supply management has very large interfaces with actuarial tariff development and mathematics.
3. What personal skills and professional knowledge are particularly important for you to be successful in your profession?
The training to become a DAV actuary provides a perfect basis for internalizing all facets of the insurance business model. At the time, I sat 10 exams and attended 2 mandatory seminars. From a technical point of view, it is particularly important to keep learning, because the world is turning faster and faster. This requires openness to new topics, the courage to think things through in new ways and, in particular, good communication skills. In my current role, it is also important to think outside the box and to be creative in finding solutions for key accounts. My affinity for processes and experience from operations still help me in my job today. I can warmly recommend anyone to talk to a customer on the phone or to intern in sales.
4. Which aspects of your job do you particularly enjoy and which aspects do you find less enjoyable?
I love working with people, so I'm very happy in my leadership role. I've always loved projects, too, and I'm currently managing one in parallel to running my department. In terms of content, I enjoy programming tools in Excel again from time to time, which I sometimes miss a little. If I could give something away, it would probably be all the organizational things, like internal control system- approvals and so on. But that's also part of the job.
5. What are the main challenges facing actuaries in the future?
I think that a major challenge for our profession is the fact that the framework conditions and environmental factors are constantly changing. As a result, new topics are constantly emerging that we, as actuaries, have to deal with. In addition, we must get away from the idea that there will be less and less of "the actuary"; the fields of activity are becoming increasingly differentiated and the demands on actuaries are growing as a result, especially in terms of soft skills and methodological knowledge. And when I say method, I don't just mean a calculation method, I'm thinking of methodological skills for problem solving or project work. Companies are becoming increasingly agile, and this is also becoming increasingly relevant for us actuaries.
Another point is that actuarial associations require a high level of commitment from their members. I see increasingly less voluntary commitment among young actuaries, which is a great pity. Promoting young talent is also becoming more and more of an issue, which is also an area in which I am involved in an honorary capacity at the DAV.