Update on Actuarial Diversity Organizations: Abacus Actuaries and South Asian Network of Actuaries
In the past few years, a multitude of organizations have emerged with a focus on increasing diversity, equity and inclusion within the actuarial profession. Even though these organizations have different goals and visions, they all help to improve the experience for current actuarial candidates and increase the breadth of opportunities available to future candidates.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Charlie Lei, FCAS, MAAA, CERA. Lei is the officer at-large of Abacus Actuaries as well as VP and head of U.S. reserving at Ascot Group. I also had the privilege of talking to Ritu Jain, FSA, MAAA, founder and president of the South Asian Network of Actuaries (SANA) as well as director and actuary at Prudential. Through my discussions with Charlie and Ritu, it is clear that both organizations are focused on broadening the scope of the actuarial profession by enhancing the opportunities available for Asian actuaries.
According to Charlie, Abacus Actuaries is an organization whose vision is to “empower Asian actuaries to move up the ranks in the actuarial sphere” by helping them “break the bamboo ceiling.” Abacus Actuaries utilizes a Pan-Asian approach when tackling many of the issues that Asians face every day. As such, Abacus Actuaries is focused on helping all Asians “achieve equal representation in the highest ranks of the actuarial profession.” While Asian actuaries represent a large percentage of CAS volunteers, this doesn’t always translate to the same level of representation on the CAS Executive Council and Board. To view a study the CAS has done on this issue in the past, please visit https://www.casact.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/2021-Asian-Community-in-the-CAS.pdf.
To support its mission, Abacus Actuaries has held several events for members to learn about the challenges Asian actuaries face every day as well as ways to combat them. For example, in its December 2021 launch event, Abacus Actuaries spoke about its long-term goal of breaking the bamboo ceiling and supplemented this with discussions of career-building, community-building and further education on how to navigate challenges unique to the Asian community.
Abacus Actuaries has also held other events, including virtual social hours, trivia nights, educational workshops and its mentorship program. Abacus Actuaries piloted its mentorship program with a cohort of 40 pairs in April 2022. It aims to continue the program and make it as successful as possible in the future.
If you are interested in supporting the efforts of Abacus Actuaries, there are many ways to do so. Charlie mentioned that Abacus Actuaries looks for corporate sponsors to not just provide donations, but also to give time and effort from volunteers. Abacus Actuaries is always open to new ideas to continuously improve the content for its events as it aims to grow and foster opportunities for Asian actuaries in the future. For more information, please see the resources below:
South Asian Network of Actuaries (SANA)
South Asia consists of eight countries and nearly a quarter of the world’s population. According to Ritu, even though there are many Asian actuaries in the United States, there are limited South Asian actuaries, and so the goals and needs of a South Asian actuary are unique. Thus, SANA is committed to increasing awareness of the profession among South Asians.
SANA aims to build a “strong network of current and aspiring South Asian actuaries worldwide and provide professional advancement opportunities, early actuarial education support and broader community upliftment.” To accomplish its mission, SANA splits its work into four workstreams:
- Membership — SANA aims to increase the number of members in the actuarial profession by connecting existing members and attracting new members. In addition to doing roadshows at different universities, SANA recognizes the importance of reaching high school students and educating teachers, parents and community leaders.
- Communication and Collaboration — SANA maintains a LinkedIn presence and a website. SANA is also developing a newsletter and building connections with other organizations, sponsors and diversity networks.
- Networking — SANA sets up coffee meetups by identifying members in the same area, so small groups can first connect virtually and then get the opportunity to meet in person.
- Professional Development — SANA piloted a successful mentorship program. SANA also started study group sessions to help connect candidates taking the same actuarial exams.
In addition to supporting students in the United States, SANA provides international support for students studying in Canada as well as South Asian countries. One of SANA’s programs provides resume and interview advice to students in India. Ritu says that it is important to remember that in India, the culture is different, the interview questions are different and as a result, the advice that SANA provides to college graduates is different as well. It is important to understand and appreciate these differences to best help students in other countries succeed. Eventually, SANA hopes to expand the opportunities in its international programs by providing scholarship opportunities and exam reimbursement.
If you are interested in supporting SANA’s mission, there are many ways to do so. SANA is very invested in its members and believes that all members should get the individual attention they deserve. As a result, SANA has one-on-one onboarding for prospective members, and it asks them how they would like to volunteer and the time commitments that work best for them. For more information, please see the resources below:
Membership & Newsletter Sign-Up: https://www.sanaactuaries.org/members-volunteers