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There’s A New FSA On The Block … Jordan Erp Gives SOA’s Exam Process Rave Reviews

There's A New FSA on The Block...
Jordan Erp Gives SOA's Exam Rave Reviews!

This new FSA credits the restructured exam process with providing him a broad view of the actuarial profession.This new FSA credits the restructured exam process with providing him a broad view of the actuarial profession.
–By Jacque Kirkwood

Hundreds of students are in the process of taking the courses necessary to become a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. However, what sets Jordan Erp, FSA, apart from his peers is the fact that he completed all the components in just three years–he passed the Fellowship Admissions Course (FAC) last month–and he did it all under the redesigned education system.

Erp, associate actuary at Humana, gives the restructured exam process an enthusiastic thumbs up.

"The redesign helped me learn material efficiently because the new system allows one to attack different portions of the actuarial education program at virtually the same time," he said. "The new system is so focused on making material more accessible and integrated I believe that is why, in large part, I completed the exam program as quickly as I did."

Stuart Klugman, actuarial education consultant and co–chair of the redesign team, couldn't be more pleased. "This is exactly what we hoped for, a reduction in travel time–though Jordan's case is extreme–accompanied by the acquisition of knowledge and skills that would be immediately useful to him and his employer," he said.

Jordan's immediate supervisor, Harry Hotchkiss, FSA, MAAA, senior products actuarial director at Humana, agrees.

"The more reasonable and more flexible exam time line has allowed Jordan to focus more on work, which employers greatly appreciate," he said. "We don't want actuarial students stuck in exam limbo for 10–20 years.

The restructured exam system is more efficient, allowing candidates to complete the work in a more realistic time frame and step into the work environment armed with a great deal of knowledge that they can use in real world applications. There are many career ASAs out there in their 40s and 50s who decided not to pursue becoming a Fellow because of the length of time it once took to complete the process."

Hotchkiss added that he thinks being able to obtain the FSA designation earlier is an added benefit.

"I give Jordan a great deal of responsibility in terms of projects because he's more than adequately equipped to do the work and I trust in that ability," added Hotchkiss. "The mix of youth, enthusiasm and a grasp of knowledge is powerful. Plus, if I can give him more projects, I can be more productive and take on more as well. As I see it, everybody wins! It's my long–term goal that he'll eventually be doing my job and I can acquire additional responsibilities at Humana knowing that some very important projects are in Jordan's very capable hands."

Passion and Desire

You may be wondering what motivated this 24–year–old to get through in record time, to come into the office at 5 a.m. to study and to know what he wanted to do at such an early stage in his career. In a few words–passion for the profession, dedication and a strong desire to achieve.

Erp was introduced to actuarial science in high school from his math teacher and wasn't enamored at first.

"I looked into it, saw the whole exam system and it really kind of turned me off," he said. "But when I went to college, I saw things in a different light. I was a math major and was pondering different career paths. Becoming an actuary was first and foremost in my mind, and when I thought about the exams, they didn't seem so big any more. I knew I was in for a lot of hard work, but I wanted a career that I would enjoy, and actuarial science seemed to be the right fit for me."

Although the University of Kentucky did not have an actuarial science program, Erp was fortunate to know a few professors who helped with review notes and review sessions for the first exam. When Erp finally started taking the exams (he completed the first three while in college), he decided he really liked the material. An internship at Humana sealed the deal.

He's worked there since January, 2006 and took the majority of his exams while employed full time. He credits the material in the exams for his understanding of his work today.

"One of the best examples that comes to mind is how it relates to the way Medicare coordination of benefits works," he said. "In Medicare, we always have to think about how the coordination of benefits works, because there are some special regulations surrounding that for Medicare. When I took the exams, there was a ton of material on coordination of benefits and how Medicare works and that was something very specific to my job. I refer to that material quite a bit."

Education and More

He also credits the exam content for providing him with a broad view of the actuarial profession and confirming that becoming an actuary was definitely the right path for him.

"I found the FAP modules particularly useful," said Erp. "The modules really helped me understand some of the concerns on the pension and risk management side of things. The material fits together so well and it's so real world. I really forgot sometimes that I was studying for exams and focused instead on the great information I was learning and would be able to use in the future.

"I'd rate the exam process a 10. It provided me with a great deal of pertinent information that continues to give me skills that I use today. The material has been invaluable to me. It was tough. It was very rigorous. Taking the exams was, by far, the hardest, academic endeavor that I've had to do. I took plenty of challenging and difficult classes in college, but every actuarial exam was much tougher than any class I ever took. But I guess it's like one of those things people would say builds character.

"I liked the fact that the new system is more conducive to tackling multiple portions of the educational system at once. For example, in the past, immediately after an exam, many actuarial students did not feel like they could do anything for fear of having failed the exam they just took. Under the new system, one can begin work on the FAP modules or VEEs during this 'exam down time' to ensure that he or she is continually making progress through the system," Erp said.

"This was an intentional part of the redesign we promoted from the beginning," said Klugman. "It's great to hear from someone who took advantage of the down time while waiting for results."

Erp passed all the exams the first time around. He attributes his success to sheer determination.

"I was highly motivated," he said. "Once I started, I just wanted to keep going, keep soaking in the knowledge. I knew there was going to be an unbelievable amount of time and effort that would have to go into it, but I kept seeing the prize at the end–receiving my FSA designation.

"I met quite a few Fellows before I even started taking the exams, and I remember thinking, 'Wow! They've done it! They're there!' It's exhilarating really!

"I truly believe that anyone who really has the desire to do this and can pass one of the exams can pass all of them. If you really take the time to think about the material as an opportunity to learn, to do your best, and to try to apply it as best you can, you'll get something out of it. I certainly did!"

Jacque Kirkwood is senior communications associate at the Society of Actuaries.

Read all about the SOA's New Education Structure in the February/March 2008 issue of The Actuary or visit the SOA Web site at Soa.org/edu-redesign.