Evan March is an Actuarial Intern at Mutual of Omaha and serves as the President of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Gamma Iota Sigma, a professional fraternity focused in risk management, insurance, and actuarial science. Evan was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio and Co-Founder at PolicyFly, Inc.
Evan, do you see the insurance industry as surviving or thriving?
“The insurance industry is really thriving, especially with respect to job growth. This can be seen more clearly now with COVID in comparison to other industries. One of the biggest statistics that I've heard while attending a Gamma Iota Sigma conference was that a good chunk of current insurance workers are nearing retirement age. It's really opening up a lot of opportunities for younger people like me to move into emerging roles.
Because of that, I'm seeing ample opportunities to learn about insurance in general. It feels like there's a void that's going to have to be filled in the next few years or so. I think it's been proven to me in my personal experience as I look for jobs, internships, etc.”
Would you say the insurance industry is being proactive and reaching out to younger talent?
“I would definitely say so. Moving forward, there are the questions about working remotely or forcing their employees to work in the office. I think certain industries that are more based in consulting and client focused are going to want their employees to be there in person. The big consensus between me and other students is that working in insurance is very flexible. Because of this, it seems that many companies in the industry are willing to continue on with remote or hybrid opportunities.
The shift toward offering remote work is helping reach out to a wider talent base. For example, with the company I'm working for, a lot of the interns are from all over the country. In previous years, the intern classes had been more heavily filled with University of Nebraska students. I think that's becoming more of an incentive for job seekers. In this case, people who don’t want to move to Omaha can now work remotely wherever they want, and as time goes on it seems that more and more companies are taking advantage of this talent opportunity to reach out to a wider pool of students.”
What’s your background and what are you interested in doing in the industry?
“I've always been interested in the application of math and finance. Throughout college, I've been double majoring in actuarial science and economics. The job of being an actuary and the role that they play drew me to the insurance industry.
I always wanted to do work that felt meaningful. Coming up with calculations, managing data and doing all of these tasks are fulfilling but aren't necessarily easy. That's why we have a little bit of a credentialing process with the exams. I was an intern with AIG last summer, and that was a virtual experience. Currently, I'm working as an actuarial intern with Mutual of Omaha. I've had the chance to see a little bit of the general P&C side with AIG, and right now, my role has been more focused on the life and health side. I'm still on the path to learn more about all the different roles that actuaries can take on.”
What are some skill sets beyond actuarial science that you feel could be particularly beneficial towards your career in insurance?
“I feel like in general, actuaries aren't given a lot of credit for their soft skills. They have the stereotype that they’re introverted and just sit down at their desk and do math all day. I've grown to see it as an unfair stereotype. Actuaries are the people who really have to be good at getting the results, but then also be able to communicate those results effectively to upper management to help them with their decisions.
One of the things that's been focused on a lot is presenting skills. I've been asked in countless interviews, ‘How would you describe something complicated to someone who had no background information on the subject matter?’ That in and of itself is a really sought after skill. Not only do you have to be good at the technical side, you have to have a really strong foundation in soft skills from being able to present well to time management. All of those skills are essential to have a solid career in the profession.”
Where do you see programming play a role in accelerating the skillsets and the impact that people like yourself can make?
“Having half of my foot in the door into the insurance industry and the actuarial field, I can see that programming is extremely useful, and people are going to really depend on it. The companies that I've worked and interviewed for all place a large emphasis on the ability to quickly learn and use new programming skills. Knowing how to use Excel and exploring its capabilities is awesome, but sometimes, things need to be taken a step further to really automate or make a process more efficient.
There are a variety of roles within actuarial science and within insurance as a whole, and because of that, there are varying levels of technical knowledge needed depending on the role. Some people can get by just knowing how to use Excel, while others may need macros and VBA to automate. More and more actuaries today are also straddling the line between data science as well, so Python and R are becoming staple skill sets in certain roles. Even for people who may not work in the most technical of roles, I’d still highly encourage everyone to venture outside of their comfort zone and get experience with programming. Adding extra tools to your toolbox never hurts in the long run since you never know when you’ll need it.
Companies also really want to have people that are like a jack of all trades, they can do multiple things and can work a little bit outside their roles. I think most jobs want you to be working a little bit outside of your job description, so having those skills makes you significantly more valuable to a company.”
Looking ahead to post senior year, are you most interested in starting your career with a growing, newer insurtech player or a larger, more established brand name in the industry?
“I want to start with a company that's more established, a little bit of a larger company just to see what's out there and to get my foot in the door to build a certain skill set. I know the actuarial exams are kind of a long and tedious process, so I want to be able to get into those larger insurance companies that offer actuarial student programs and other benefits. I want to build up a skillset and have all my credentials. If I find myself feeling underwhelmed or feel that I'm not progressing enough in my job, I think insurtech is something I would totally be interested in moving into.”
What value do you feel like you get out of Gamma Iota Sigma, and how will you advocate that others take advantage of joining the community?
“For reference, our Gamma Iota Sigma chapter has only been around since 2019 at the University of Illinois, so it's still fairly new. The majority of our members are studying actuarial science, but that doesn't change the value that they are getting out of being a part of Gamma Iota Sigma. Before getting in, I had a very narrow view of what the insurance industry was. I thought it was just selling insurance, and then you pay claims and collect premiums. It's a lot more complicated than that. Gamma allows all of our students in our organization the ability to learn things beyond their major and expand their knowledge about the field.
It gives you an idea to look and see what other parts make the machine move. You learn about things like underwriting, claims and how risk management works. I think the most highly touted skills that upper management looks for when they want to promote people is obviously one, how good are you at your job? And two, what is your knowledge of the business as a whole? So, getting a more holistic view is really gonna set you apart from other people who are only focused on their role.”