Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mentorship cont'd

In the last post I said that I was contacted by three gentlemen for a possible meeting/advice session regarding mentorship. Well, make that five!

I met with one of them, John W. last Friday. John is an investment advisor at CIBC Wood Gundy and is an FSA, FCIA since 1970.

It was a very pleasant hour of conversation and he was very eager to share his experience with me.

Something about John first. He graduated with Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and was greatly disillusioned with the prospects of working in that field right after graduation. So he secured a position in the pensions field and went through all the exams while working there. He received his FSA in 1970 and was working with pensions for 35 years. After that he decided to retire and take a few years off. I am guessing retirement and passive existence was not for him so he ventured in the world of finance, which always attracted him. He became an investment advisor with Wood Gundy.

Here are some of the questions that I asked him and his answers (not direct quotes since I did not record the conversation):

Was the field of work that you are in right now your initial choice when you were taking the actuarial exams?
Obviously not, given his background above.

Do you have any other certifications besides FSA, FCIA?
No. He tried to get CFA, but decided that at that point and with the credentials of an actuary he did not really need it, given the fact that he works in the retail side of investment advising business. He did pass the first exam of the CFA 3 exam series and said that with his 10 actuarial exams (according to the old system) is was very easy for him. He did study and take the second one, but due to his ruptured appendix right before the exam, he did not pass it.

What good are the certification courses offered by the CSI (Canadian Securities Institute)?
He said that those courses are nothing, but a requirement for him with his actuarial credentials. Those courses are mostly required for people who are working with the brokerage companies or any other institutions that require licensing courses. He himself has CSC and Conduct and Practices Handbook Course.

After those questions I told him my story and asked for advice. I said that I am very much attracted with the financial industry, but am not ready to give up my efforts on the actuarial exams. He explained to me that if I were to work in finance, I would be better off with the CFA exams only and that I don't really need the actuarial ones. CFA exams are easier, when comparing with the actuarial ones. The first one (CFA) is like any one of the first SOA exams by difficulty. The two other ones are like each of the second five SOA exams. It will take me three years max to take CFA and over 5 years to take SOA exams.

However, there are fields within the actuarial profession, where finance and actuarial skills are paired. The newly emerging need for the Enterprise Risk Managers in any company and the continuing efforts by the Society of Actuaries to promote actuaries as the number one choice for ERM makes it a lucrative business to go to. John gave me a contact at AEGON Canada, who is a CRO there. He recommended that I should talk to him about ERM and how useful it is. I plan to do so right after my university exams are through.

We chatted for an hour and I managed to get a lot of useful information from John, not all of it is documented here. I also have two more meetings this week and two more after my exams. If you are reading this and like the advice that I got, I strongly urge you to do the same and find yourself a mentor, maybe more than one!