Tessa Steel

BSc (Hons) Mathematics 2020

Actuarial Analyst, Suncorp New Zealand

Tessa Steel

Can you tell us a bit about your career so far and what you are up to at Suncorp now?

Actuaries predict and assess the financial risks and impacts of future events, and actuarial analysts support them in their work. Starting as an analyst at Deloitte was a great way to begin my career as I gained exposure to the many types of challenges actuaries are tasked with finding solutions to, including insurance, climate change risk and funding gap analyses.

I also began my own actuarial studies after graduating from UC however this is a long journey of several years alongside working full-time. It's great that most companies who hire actuary students provide a lot of study support (I was given 40 days of paid study leave per year) so this is certainly a career worth considering if you are interested in further study!

This year I decided to deepen my knowledge in my preferred area of life insurance and am currently working remotely as a contractor for Suncorp on their IFRS17 project team. This project involves helping the company become compliant with the new international insurance regulation, named IFRS17.

You are also involved in a couple of societies and committees within your industry, can you tell us about them and why you like to be involved?

If you tell someone in the UK that you work as an actuary, there's a pretty high chance they will know and appreciate what you do, however in New Zealand, there is much less awareness. The NZ actuarial community is always working to push the message out about what we do and where we add value. As my contribution to my profession, I volunteer for the New Zealand Society of Actuaries (NZSA) on the Communications Committee, managing the NZSA LinkedIn page. I hope that the posts I publish reach a wide audience to contribute to the promotion of the profession in NZ. I am also a member of the NZSA and Institute and Faculty Actuaries, UK (IFoA).

How have the skills or knowledge you gained from your time at UC been valuable in your career so far?

The skills I learnt from my mathematics courses were almost directly applicable in my first role as a trainee actuary. More surprisingly, the other skills I learnt during my studies such as presenting to an audience, writing a report, professionalism and cultural awareness proved extremely valuable in my transition from uni to the corporate world. I think the holistic learning experience (UC7) really makes UC stand out from other NZ unis.

What did you enjoy most about studying at UC?

I thoroughly enjoyed learning from my lecturers, including Professor Michael Plank who later became heavily involved in pandemic modelling, and Professor Jack Copeland, author of The Turing Guide.

I was also part of UCheer and really enjoyed travelling around NZ to compete. I still keep in close contact with many of my teammates and this was absolutely the icing on the cake of my UC experience.

What advice would you give to a high school student who is considering studying at university but is apprehensive or unsure?

If you know what you want to study and are passionate about it, I’d say go for it Having a degree in a field you enjoy opens up a world of opportunities for your career pathways.