Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a lecturer at the Faculty of Mathematical Economics – National Economics University in Vietnam. The actuarial science training program is a bachelor’s degree program at our Faculty. Besides actuarial science, we have bachelor’s degree programs in mathematical finance and data science in economics and business.
I received a Ph.D. in actuarial science at the Institute of Science in Finance and Insurance – University Claude Bernard Lyon. I was a researcher at the Actuarial and Financial Sciences Laboratory – University Claude Bernard Lyon from 2011 to 2014. After defending my Ph.D. thesis, I worked as a researcher in quantitative finance for an American hedge fund. I then started working in the actuarial domain in mid-2015 at MetLife Vietnam.
My teaching career started in 2018 and continues today. Additionally, I am an ASA currently taking exams in the Society of Actuaries’ (SOA’s) Quantitative Finance and Investment track.
Why did you change your career to become an actuarial professor?
The Vietnamese insurance market is growing rapidly while the number of actuarial professionals is still very limited. The lack of actuarial professionals is a massive task for Vietnamese insurance companies to tackle in terms of competition and business expansion. I felt the situation could be changed by opening an actuarial training program at a university.
By becoming a professor, I can teach many students about actuarial science. Moreover, young employees working in actuarial departments at various companies can ask me questions about their career paths and daily working problems.
If I was still working in the industry, I would not have the opportunity to learn other things except for actuarial science due to the demand for actuarial science expertise. Now I have time to do what I want. For example, I can continue research for my Ph.D. thesis, learn more about data science and start taking actuarial exams related to general insurance, such as the General Insurance track of the SOA.
Can you share some of the difficulties you faced when changing your career?
There is a huge difference between the salary of an actuarial manager at an insurance company and the salary of an actuarial professor at a university in Vietnam. That is the price I am willing to pay to pursue a career as a professor. However, as they say, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Over the long term, other solutions will need to be explored, such as recruiting actuaries from the industry to deliver part-time or evening courses. Hopefully this can become a reality as more local actuarial graduates join the industry.
Can you provide an assessment of actuarial students in Vietnam?
The actuarial science training program in the Faculty started enrolling students for the first time in September 2018, with around 40 students in each intake. Based on my observations, actuarial students are smart, hardworking and determined. In each intake, there are three to five outstanding students who will become qualified actuaries at a young age if they are directed properly.
Not many Vietnamese students know about the actuarial profession. What have you done to introduce this career path to more students?
Most students who are pursuing a career in actuarial science know about the subject through their family members who work in the insurance industry. Currently, we at the actuarial science program in the Faculty are informing undergraduates about the subject mainly through newsletters and social media. We also have events held by the university in collaboration with high schools where we have direct meetings and discussions with students and introduce them to the profession. Additionally, the SOA has had outreach visits to our university for students to learn more about the profession.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your university?
Our university has been closed for a number of months now due to the pandemic. It is quite apparent that this is a major problem for both the students and the lecturers, but we are willing to take steps to ensure the safety of everyone working and studying at the university.
We have been applying a blended learning system for the entire shutdown period, where students continue studying through online meetings combined with assignments and quizzes given by the lecturers on our university website. Lecturers in our university have been providing our students with the proper knowledge and practices to ensure the quality of the course during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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