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Premium gigs: STEM grads in insurance

The insurance industry isn’t all about premiums and claims. There is also cool modelling around how natural hazards may affect people’s lives and that requires experts in data and analytics

Insurance Australia Group (IAG) is Australia and New Zealand’s largest general insurance company. They’ve been around since 1851 so they know their stuff. During the years, IAG have answered all the big questions: when weather episodes strike, what are the risks? What does that look like from a cost perspective? What is the impact of climate change on business and the community?

There’s a natural perils team at IAG dedicated to working with actuarial consultants, flood scientists, geospatial analysts and statisticians to help protect us. Let’s meet some of the team…

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Philip Conway joined IAG with a background in engineering and a PhD in hydrodynamic modelling. His unique skills now help him in his role as the perils pricing manager. Philip’s team have built national models on hazards such as bushfires, floods and financial
modules to identify the risks a customer is potentially exposed to. One of the coolest projects Philip was part of was the Pacific Highway connecting Sydney to Brisbane.

Perils pricing manager, Philip Conway

“I was responsible for developing the models that ensured the roadway and bridges could withstand floods as well as not make flooding worse for nearby communities,” he says. “To this day when I drive on it, I see the contributions we made.”

Getting into STEM

Perils pricing manager, Philip Conway. Image: Lauren Trompp

“As a child I always had a passion for understanding how things – and the world – worked,” says Philip. “That passion, combined with an affinity for solving problems, especially through maths, made me want to pursue a career in engineering.”

A Swiss, Irish and Australian national, Philip prides himself in ensuring that communities across Australia are built in ways that are compatible with current and future potential natural disasters.

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Philip’s study and career pathway

Bachelor Civil Engineering, University College Dublin
Phd Engineering, University College Dublin
Senior engineer, Wmawater
Perils Pricing Manager, IAG

Actuarial consultant, Sylvia Wang

Sylvia Wang is an actuarial consultant at IAG. She advises on the pricing and reinsurance of natural risks. “My day-to-day job involves a wide range of tasks, from data analysis, programming and building logics, to model comparison, statistical modelling and reporting,” she says.

Change is key

One of Sylvia’s course advisors had doubts about her ability to complete the maths during her actuary studies, which made Sylvia question where her degree would take her.

Actuarial consultant, Sylvia Wang. Image: Lauren Trompp

“Overall, it was a tough decision to change to STEM, but I’m glad I kept going as I love the work I’m doing now,” she says. “Never be discouraged by others if you love STEM. It takes a lot of passion and dedication to pursue the path.”

Sylvia thinks STEM disciplines are evolving and converging. “You will be seeing people with diverse backgrounds working together,” she says. “For example, a statistician might be working with medical experts to solve cutting-edge medical challenges; or engineers consulting with meteorologists to understand the impact of climate change. There is a lot of collaboration.”

Sylvia’s study and career pathway

Bachelor of International Business, University Of Technology Sydney
Master Of Actuarial Practice, Macquarie University
Master Of Data Science, University Of Sydney
Actuarial Consultant, IAG

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2021.

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