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Joy-Ann Payne likes doing math

Sherrie Holder

Joy-Ann Payne likes doing math

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What made you decide to become an actuary?

Before I left Barbados for college, I visited the doctor for a checkup and in the course of our conversation she asked me about my intended major. At that point I had not yet decided, but I mentioned to her that I liked math and the sciences but I didn’t think I wanted to go to medical school.

She asked me if I had ever heard about an actuary, and mentioned that there were only a few actuaries in Barbados. My interested was piqued by that conversation, and after doing some more research, I made the decision to fully pursue actuarial science.  

How long have you been in the profession?

This past June 2011 marked my 14-year anniversary in the field.  

How did your academic life prepare you for your career path?

My major was math with a concentration in actuarial science. So naturally, there were several courses that specifically prepared me for the first few exams that I would need to take in pursuit of becoming an actuary. But there were several other courses that came in handy.

Speech class was a mandatory course that helped equip me with many of the verbal communication skills that are required in the consulting field. But even apart from that, many of my college courses required class presentations and that was something I had not done too much of during secondary school, and honestly I would have avoided public speaking at all costs if I could. But having that mandatory component forced me to develop a skill that is a significant part of my job today.

The last thing I would mention is, since many of my initial years in the field were spent studying for exams, the level of discipline that I had to exercise throughout college was even more important during my professional career – most of the studying for exams is independent study.  

I read initially that you had intended to return to Barbados; was it more lucrative to remain in the United States to pursue your career?

I wanted to specialize in the property and casualty field and I believe the actuarial opportunities in Barbados were primarily in the non-P&C areas. So it made sense for me to stay where there were many more opportunities available to me as I was pursuing my exams – at least for the time being.  

Experts are saying that careers like actuaries’ are the jobs of the future. Would you recommend this as a career path for others coming along?

I think the actuarial profession is a relevant profession today and will continue to be so. At one point in my career I felt like the actuarial profession was not as broad as some other careers, being that it is a highly specialized and technical field. However, the actuarial profession is continuing to evolve and as the world begins to view risk in different ways, actuaries have the opportunity to branch out from traditional areas and become involved in predictive analytics and modelling, enterprise risk management, financial risk management.

On top of that, it continues to be ranked as one of the top jobs – noted for the earning potential and fairly low stress. I’d say don’t be swayed by the low stress part, that certainly varies depending on the environment one works in. Nevertheless, I do think it is a career with unlimited potential for which there are ample rewards.  

Taking exams is essential to your profession and career growth. Has that been difficult or have you grown accustomed to the examination process?

It was not too difficult when I first left school because I still had the momentum from school and limited responsibilities at work. However, as time progressed and my duties and responsibilities increased, finding time to study became a bit more challenging. I always recommend that actuarial students try to get their exams out of the way as early on in their careers as possible.  

What type of work do you do on a day-to-day basis at Deloitte?

As an actuary for a consulting firm I get to do a little bit of everything on a daily basis, especially at my current level. Typically, though, I am working on audit engagements where Deloitte’s auditors have engaged me as a specialist to assist on the audit by assessing the reasonableness of the insurance liabilities, or I am managing projects for my consulting clients.

A major part of my job at this level also involves project management and business and people development. So I manage projects as well as the people assigned to those projects. Related to business development, I am also responsible for developing new business and creating eminence for the firm. So many of my day-to-day activities support those goals through proposal development, marketing our services to current and/or prospective clients, and contributing to white papers or other marketing materials.  

How has this career path impacted your life?

Growing up, I knew in my heart that I wanted to be in a profession that enriched the lives of others. With this particular career path there is not necessarily a direct connection between what I do and the type of impact I have always hoped to make. However, it finally hit me that through my career I have been able to impact people in other ways, whether by being financially stable enough to help others personally or through support charities, or by volunteering on the CAS/SOA Committee for Actuarial Diversity in order to help diversify the actuarial profession and educate students about the career they may have never heard about. I would also have to say that it is satisfying to know that the work I do is making a client or colleague’s job easier.  

Does your day typically consist of long hours, and how do you manage that?

This varies throughout the year. Hours are longer during the busy season months – typically from October to February I can work 60-plus hours a week. It’s a bit more manageable during the summer months, although I may still be working over 45 hours a week, depending on the project. One of the ways that I manage the demands of my job is by making sure I’m maintaining my mental and physical well-being.

For me, that involves being grounded in faith and remembering that everything I have is because of God’s hand in my life. Things can change at any time and if they do, I want to be grounded in the only thing that is constant in this world. I also make sure that I never sacrifice my physical well-being. That means getting up well before the crack of dawn and getting in my gym time – if I don’t start my day this way, my day is completely off. This aspect of my life is critical to managing the stress that I can face on any given day.  

What advice would you give to others coming along?

Commitment is key. So figure out what you need to do to stay committed and then do it. Particularly for actuarial students, independent study can be challenging to maintain over such a long period of time, but the rewards are well worth it when you do make it through. Don’t be discouraged by minor setbacks along the way. Draw strength from peers, professional communities, networks and mentors, and recognize that those who went before you are/were successful because they worked hard and were dedicated to achieving their goals.

Also find mentors who have been successful within the profession and be inspired by them! Additionally. no matter what career you choose, always make sure that you are continuing to develop yourself professionally. With the rapid pace of change in today’s world, in order to be successful and remain relevant we have to be flexible and adaptable, in our careers as well as our personal lives.