In Pursuit of SOA General Insurance FSA

Gennady Stolyarov II, ASA, is in the final stages to attain the FSA General Insurance credential. Stolyarov is the Lead Property/Casualty Actuary for the Nevada Division of Insurance, where he reviews property/casualty insurers’ rates and form filings, predictive models, captive insurer applications and insurers’ proposals for business-plan changes. He also frequently responds to inquiries regarding Nevada insurance statutes and regulations and assists with monitoring Nevada’s domestic companies’ financial condition.

Stolyarov has developed reports for the Nevada Legislature and informational materials for consumers, and spearheaded the first initiative in the United States to publicly post insurers’ home and private passenger automobile policy forms on a State website. At various times, Stolyarov actively participated on NAIC Task Forces, such as the Surplus Lines Task Force, the Reinsurance Task Force, and the Workers’ Compensation Task Force.

 

What led you to becoming an actuary?

The actuarial field was attractive to me due to the merit-based, self-study-oriented examination system, as well as the ability to “earn while you learn” – to simultaneously invest in one’s education while maintaining a high standard of living and avoiding educational debt.

When I was a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan, I completed a triple major in Economics, Mathematics, and German, but by my second year, it was apparent to me that the opportunity costs of graduate school would be too high. At the same time, I discovered that, for less than the cost of a semester’s tuition at many universities and professional schools, one can sign up for all of the actuarial exams, modules, and courses (and could often even receive employer support with regard to these costs). Thereafter, you are able to progress at your chosen pace, and the outcome depends on your dedication and effort at mastering the exam and course material – a situation that rewards and enables individual initiative, autonomy, and auto didacticism.

The work of an actuary intersects with a vast array of fields – from theoretical mathematics and statistics to law, economics, political science, and even philosophy (as a good actuary will also strive to carefully observe human beings, their motivations, and the incentives affecting behaviors that could raise or lower the probabilities of losses occurring). At the same time, the actuarial field is conducive to my preference for intellectually stimulating, idea-oriented, computer-based work with prominent real-world impacts, as well as an ability to deploy my creativity, versatility, and initiative to improve human well-being by contributing to the appropriate function of insurance systems.

 

What interests you about general insurance?

I selected a property and casualty specialization due to my interest in the role these insurance products can play in maintaining the material infrastructure of civilization and helping individuals recover from financially crippling events brought about by natural and some manmade perils.

I am particularly interested not only in how general insurance can help individuals recover from losses, but also in how such insurance could assist in preventing losses from occurring in the first place. Historically, the insurance industry has encouraged improvements in fire safety, workplace safety, sturdier home construction, and safety features in automobiles. I hope that, in the coming years, the insurance industry can also embrace emerging technologies and practices such as autonomous vehicles, telecommuting, and biomedical breakthroughs – all of which could save many lives while reducing the loss potential for lines of business as diverse as automobile insurance, workers’ compensation and medical malpractice insurance.

I am a techno-optimist who believes that insurance professionals should advocate the adoption of the tools and processes that can advance human civilization into its next era. It will be interesting to see how general insurance develops in the coming decades and how various insurance products will evolve to cover emerging technologies and exposures and adapt to an ever-changing (hopefully improving!) landscape of risk.

 

What made you decide to pursue the SOA General Insurance Track?

I hold that the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement should be a lifelong endeavor, and it seems logical to pursue a credential that facilitates such continual learning while also serving as a concise signaling mechanism that one has delved into cutting-edge topics in property and casualty insurance.

The SOA’s General Insurance Track was particularly attractive to me because of its emphasis on exposing candidates to the most current, relevant resources for actuarial practice today. The extensive use of online modules and the focus on applying the tools of the electronic age are immense points in the SOA General Insurance Track’s favor. For example, in the Applications of Statistical Techniques (AST) module, one does not just learn about generalized linear models; one actually works with R to create them.

By offering candidates direct experience with the types of tools that they would find in a job setting, the SOA General Insurance Track helps build the bridge between theory and application.

I decided to pursue the SOA General Insurance Track in part to help build support for this educational approach and contribute to what will hopefully be an ever-growing pool of motivated candidates.

 

What features do you like about the GI track?

  • Emphasis on the use of technology through the modules and teaching of practical skills, like the creation and analysis of generalized linear models in R.
  • Extensive outreach and attention given to individual candidates. Candidates should know that the SOA truly wants them to succeed, and gives them the tools to do so. It takes hard work and dedication, but the opportunity is there for those who are willing.
  • An international perspective is taken on many concepts and approaches. One learns not just how a particular topic is approached in the United States, but also similarities and differences in approaches in other countries.
  • Also, one can get some perspective on the tremendously diverse areas of practice and actuarial considerations that exist throughout the insurance industry and related sectors of the economy.

 

What would you tell candidates to expect should they decide to pursue Fellowship with the SOA’s General Insurance Track?

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making the decision to pursue the Fellowship with the General Insurance Track. Once you begin to study, you will find an added emphasis on the use of technology and on the regular application of the ideas and techniques in the readings. For modules, keep the big picture in mind as you progress through the readings, and think about how any given reading might become relevant later on. When it comes time to do the end-of-module exercises, you should be able to discern which sources will be useful for you to revisit in making sure you develop your best answer for each component.

 

For exams, make sure you read each syllabus paper several times and dissect key ideas into memorable segments that can then be expressed in a question-and-answer format. It can also help to utilize external study guides, as long as they are supplements and not substitutes for the syllabus readings. If you do not think that sufficient affordable study guides exist for a given exam, try making your own and soliciting feedback from others. This will be excellent practice for you.

 

Use a variety of study techniques to keep the information fresh in your mind. Simple memorization creates anchors in your mind that can render the application of a skill more instantaneous. You should also be solving practice problems on a daily basis, if possible. The more different problem types and approaches for solving them you are able to internalize, the more capable you will be when facing an unfamiliar problem. With enough practice, you might be able to recognize some seemingly completely new problems as variations on familiar themes.

 

Exams are time-limited, and it is important to pace oneself appropriately. During the 15-minute reading period, make a mental note of the problems that you know how to approach right away, and do those first. At the end, you should strive to give yourself a sufficient time buffer to think through the more challenging and unusual problems for you. Try, as much as possible, to always keep moving forward somewhere. If you hit a roadblock on one problem, shift to another and work through it; perhaps an insight on the first problem will arrive later on.

 

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