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I remember the first time I ever heard the word, “actuary.” When I was a boy growing up in the Central African country of Cameroon, my cousin came to visit from Nantes, France. During one of our conversations, we discussed my report card. My cousin was highly impressed by my math grade and hinted that I might want to become an actuary. I had no idea what an actuary was, but she explained it as, “one of those people who work for banks, doing their mathematics and statistics.” I was interested, but didn’t think it possible since there were no schools or universities training actuaries in Cameroon. It was not until many years later, after I had completed my first bachelor’s degree in Cameroon and obtained a visa for the United States, that my dream of becoming an actuary finally began to come true.
I first became aware of the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA) while pursuing my second bachelor’s degree in actuarial science. A friend told me about IABA, and that it is a non-profit organization that connects black actuarial professionals and students from all over the world. Amazed to learn that this kind of organization existed, I decided to research it further and become a member. In 2012, I attended my first IABA regional meeting, which was organized by the Chicago affiliate.
Daniel Teuma and Art Randolph at the 2016 IABA Annual Meeting
In 2014, a year into my first actuarial job, Art Randolph, a fellow black actuary and Principal and Consulting Actuary at Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, Inc., invited me to attend the IABA Annual Meeting in Louisiana. This would be an amazing opportunity for me to learn more about actuarial careers and meet other black actuaries from around the globe. It was my first trip to the beautiful city of New Orleans, as well as to the southern United States, and I was very curious about the culture in New Orleans. Since I had been told that people from the South are “cool,” I wanted to know why, when the average temperature is over 100 degrees in the summer. I also looked forward to practicing my French, as I had been told that Louisiana had once been a French territory so many of its citizens still spoke the language.
There were many interesting educational sessions, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of black actuaries coming from Africa, particularly from Ghana. I was fortunate to make several great connections and left New Orleans very happy with both the city and the IABA event, so much so that I attended the 2015 Annual Meeting in Miami and the 2016 event in Las Vegas this past July. This year’s annual IABA event brought “Passion, Power and Purpose” to its attendees. I discovered these when attending the educational sessions, most notably, “P&C Reserve Cycle, Reserve Strengthening and the Role of the Reserving Actuary.” This session discussed the valuable role of actuaries within their organizations and how their results might affect the economy. This knowledge further reinforced my passion to complete my exams, continue learning and take on additional responsibilities. Actuarial Opportunities in Alternative (Capital Market) Reinsurance explored the notion that actuaries have powerful opportunities to provide risk-bearing entities with expertise and advice on how to mitigate, control or avoid their losses. Lastly, my purpose in attending this event and its educational sessions was to further build my skillset then return to Pinnacle to apply this knowledge in executing our alternative markets project work.
Between the sessions I had the opportunity to network with many other actuaries. Since it was my third year at IABA, there were many familiar faces. I was able to reconnect with people I had met in the past but also make new acquaintances. It really felt like a family reunion. I was also amazed by the many testimonials from students who had earned scholarships, internships and job offers. Networking with younger students allowed me to share my experience in the actuarial exam process and in my professional career. I even decided to unofficially mentor one student who showed interest in talking more with me about my experience.
Approximately 300 black actuaries from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and parts of Africa attended the 2016 IABA Annual Meeting. Realizing that there are more black actuaries around the world, one of IABA’s primary goals is to gather at least 1,000 of us for the 2017 Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, D.C. With that objective in mind, the organization asked each of this year’s participants to bring along two people to next year’s event. As for me, I’ve already convinced one black actuarial student to attend with me next year.
IABA events are about having fun, reconnecting and meeting new people, and the Las Vegas event was no exception. I was able to visit many local sites and, although the heat was not something to which most of us were accustomed, it translated into the warmth of friendship, and we all left happy and looking forward to next year’s meeting. If you want to know where the black actuaries are, please visit www.blackactuaries.org.
Daniel Teuma is an Actuarial Analyst with Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, Inc. in the Bloomington, Illinois office. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Science from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. Daniel has considerable experience in assignments involving Loss Reserving, Rate Filings, Funding Studies, Loss Cost Projections, and Group Captives. He is actively pursuing membership in the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) through the examination process.
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