Benjamin Wu TAL Australia Graduate

Benjamin Wu

Macquarie University
Actuarial Graduate
Benjamin studied a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies at Macquarie University

Where did you grow up? 

I was born in China, but my family immigrated to New Zealand at a young age. I began my education journey there with primary school and moved over to Australia at the beginning of high school

How did you get to your current job position? 

I’ve worked at TAL for the past 2 years as an Actuarial Graduate. I was browsing graduate program options in my final year of university and came across TAL’s advertisement. I applied and after 2 rounds of interviews, I successfully landed the role.

How did you choose your specialisation

During university, actuarial students were told that there were a two predominant options for career pathways, traditional work including general/life insurance, banking and superannuation as well as non-traditional work including investments and data analytics. I thoroughly enjoyed studying the life insurance subjects relative to the others and therefore, knew that I would like to end up in the life insurance industry. I did take an internship with a data analytics firm to weigh up my options and give it a go, but in the end it wasn’t for me.

What was your interview process like? 

When I was interviewed for the role of Actuarial Graduate, the process was quite simple. I went through a phone interview, an online assessment and a face to face interview before being offered the role. It’s difficult to recall the exact questions that were asked, but what TAL is looking for is an individual that is motivated to succeed, a desire to take ownership of their own learning but most importantly, an individual who fits in with the TAL culture. It is sometimes difficult to capture these qualities in a few questions, but I would encourage any future applicants to be themselves and let their personality shine through during each of the interviews.

What does your employer do?

TAL is Australia’s leading life insurer; in 2017 TAL paid $1.6 billion dollars in claims to over 25,000 Australians and their families. TAL offers insurance through direct, retail and group channels – partnering with entities such as Qantas and AustralianSuper to meet the insurance needs of their members.

What are your areas of responsibility?

My current and last rotation as an Actuarial Graduate is within the Group Pricing area of TAL. I’ve worked with many different super funds in analyzing appropriate insurance needs for the member demographic and deep diving into claims insights.

Can you describe a typical work day

A typical work day is hard to come by, as I work across many different teams and small projects that come up. The last piece of work I did was refining a stochastic model used to project a profit share scheme with one of our superannuation partners.

What are the career prospects with your job? 

There really is no limit to career prospects through the graduate program; TAL has really invested in the program to equip us with the appropriate skillset for the future leader. Where I and the other graduates can go from here in the short term is into a permanent role at TAL having been exposed to the many areas of the business through our rotations and in the long term, the sky’s the limit for each of us. After the graduate program, I hope to stay in the Group Pricing area and continue to build my knowledge of group insurance and work closely with our superannuation partners to make a difference to the lives of the everyday Australian.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

The role does require quantitative thinking and an individual with a strong math/stats background would suit well – they don’t necessarily have to have done actuarial studies in university but this is preferred as the role is quite specific. There are other streams of the graduate program including but not limited to Finance, Distribution and IT to cater for students from varying backgrounds. Additionally, if someone did want to give actuarial a go, in the TAL graduate program there is a 6 month elective rotation that gives graduates the ability to go into an area that is outside their business unit. I spent 6 months in Retail Distribution, learning about everything insurance in the retail channel through financial advisers. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a wide variety of individuals at TAL that weren’t actuaries, learning their different methods of thinking and not opening too many spreadsheets in my 6 months. I have attempted to convince the non-actuarial graduates to give actuarial a try, however, have not yet had any success with my cohort and the 2018 cohort. I look forward to trying again with the 2019 cohort of graduates.

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

If I had not pursued the actuarial profession, I would have considered doing a law degree and attempt to become a lawyer. Looking back now, I don’t think that would’ve gone very well as my forte is in the numbers rather than reading thick textbooks. Realistically, I think regardless of my choice of degree in university, I would somehow end up back in the insurance and finance industry doing something quantitative.

What do you love the most about your job? 

What I enjoy the most about the job is a combination of the variety of work as well as the people at TAL. The variety of work allows me to learn new ideas and ways of working in a project. The way I view it is, it’s similar to an upwards spiral that continues to grow larger and larger. In the sense that, you will end up revisiting concepts/techniques throughout your career, however each time that you do, you will have a further understanding of it. There isn’t a specific task that I enjoy the most, but it would have to be one which requires some complex and creative thinking rather than being “business as usual”. The feeling of elation when an innovative solution works is foundational for me in enjoying challenges requiring outside the box thinking. The people at TAL also make the biggest difference to coming in each day, I enjoy some cheeky banter and making quality puns with colleagues, they keep the day lighthearted and humorous.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

The balance of bearing responsibility and learning is quite well struck at TAL. On one end of the spectrum, if graduates were to bear no responsibility, it would dramatically decrease the rate at which we could be challenged and learn. On the other end, if we were to bear all the responsibility, learning would again be hindered due to stress and having little support from people with more experience. At TAL, there will be challenges and opportunities for each individual graduate to learn and the accessibility of senior management is amazing. It isn’t standard for there to be weekend work, unless the team that you’ve been placed in is frantically busy. Personally, I’ve only worked on 1 day of the weekend in my 2 years. TAL has quite a big focus on work life balance and this is reflected in the high number of employees working flexible hours to suit their respective lifestyles.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  • Be curious and never stop learning – I think this is the biggest piece of advice for anyone regardless of where they’re at in their career. Never assume that you know everything and be open to other’s ideas to work together as well as learning off other’s strengths and making it your own.
  • Make the most of what you’ve been given and enjoy it – this piece of advice applies to life holistically and stems from when life gives you lemons make lemonade. In and outside of work, there will be situations where things won’t go your way and it’s easy to complain about it. However, it requires a certain discipline to take these things into stride, have a positive attitude and move forward with the cards you’ve been dealt.
  • Everyone has the same amount of time in their day – I hear the phrase, “I don’t have time for this, I’m busy” constantly. However, no one is given a time advantage in their daily life and it is completely in your hands in how it is organised and allocated. Whilst work does indeed swallow a large portion of time during the weekdays, it doesn’t mean that nothing else can be done before/during/after work. Of course, rest is necessary so ensure that you also give yourself time off to relax!