Sivakumar Desai, FSA 2011, MAAA
AVP - Business Analysis Actuary
Brief description of the type of work you currently do:
I have worked in Long-Term Care Insurance for the last 12 years in a variety of roles from pricing products, reporting financial results, experience analysis and reserve adequacy testing. I currently manage Unum’s Long-Term Care Valuation and Experience Analysis teams.
Primary Area of Practice:
Health, Accounting and Finance
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Why do you want to be on the Board?
I have two main reasons for wanting to be on the Board:
- I have been volunteering with SOA ever since I became an ASA, by serving on POGs, submitting articles and serving on three different section councils. I want to continue serving the Society at a deeper level as it continues to implement its strategies.
- After working in Engineering/IT/Finance and Accounting/Actuarial Science, I consider our profession is the best. With increasing use of AI/Data Science, it is vital for actuaries to complement their existing skillset with emerging technologies and I would like to be a part of achieving that.
Ethics and Transparency
Ethics and transparency are essential to professional practice and service on the Board. How have you demonstrated ethics and transparency in the past? How will your own ethics and views on transparency influence your decisions and actions as a member of the SOA Board?
I have always been guided by a strong ethical and moral compass in both my personal and professional lives. As actuaries, we need to be cognizant of the ethical responsibilities of our profession, as the public is trusting us with providing opinions that can help safeguard their retirement savings or help them navigate financial difficulties caused by unexpected events. I work in Financial Reporting and on my team, we have a culture where transparency is encouraged and rewarded. The team members are encouraged to be transparent about the processes used in reaching conclusions and the drawbacks of the process. I encourage not only the reporting of errors but also the transparency in understanding what went wrong in the process that generated the error and how we can mitigate similar errors in the future.
As a member of the SOA Board, I will work to make sure my actions are going to benefit the actuarial community at large. I will also encourage more transparency in decision-making at the Board without violating any confidentiality requirements.
Collaborative working relationships are essential to the governance function of the SOA Board of Directors, especially as board members work with each other, volunteers, and staff to achieve the strategic goals and mission of SOA. Describe a situation from either your professional or volunteer experiences that demonstrated you are a team player
In one of my previous roles, I played a critical role in a systems conversion project that was supposed to be completed within a short period of time. In this project, I demonstrated many aspects of being a team player:
- I worked with external consultants and senior management to lay out the rationale for system conversion. This involved working closely with consultants and senior management to understand their concerns and how best to mitigate them.
- I closely worked with other members of the system conversion team to make sure our tasks are well-coordinated, and I was completing my tasks on time and not creating obstacles for getting the job done.
- Worked with policy operations and claims operations to make sure the new system is going to generate the output that they need for planning purposes and for understanding the performance of the block of business.
- Worked with IT to make sure the new system can be integrated with the existing administration systems and the downstream process that use the output from the system.
- Worked with both internal and external auditors to make sure that we have the right controls in place to catch any errors and that we have followed a rigorous process to convert the system.
I collaborate very well with other team members and the stakeholders. I hold myself and other team members accountable for what we collectively agreed upon. These qualities would allow me to be an excellent team player on the Board.
Board members need to exhibit curiosity and a desire to learn about areas that may potentially impact the SOA and the profession. How do you stay informed about what is going on nationally and internationally, and how do you apply that knowledge into your work with SOA and the profession?
I keep myself abreast by reading a wide variety of magazines and sources and through my network of friends who are working in a wide variety of industries. I also go through the syllabus and materials of the FSA modules/exams every year to keep myself abreast of any new information that I have not read in the past. I interact regularly with attorneys and accountants to keep myself abreast of any changes to regulation that are currently being considered and how they are going to affect our organization. I regularly go through health magazines (and sometimes medical journals) to check for advances in treating certain diseases to better understand how these treatments affect the liabilities of our products.
On a personal level, I am currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Data Science from Northwestern University to get myself more proficient in Data Science (I want to participate effectively in Kaggle competitions). My wife and I are scouring through scientific publications to design simple experiments that can make physics/chemistry interesting to our autistic son. Before I became an actuary, I worked in Manufacturing/ IT / Accounting and Finance. I have a very diverse background, which can be very helpful in reaching out to people of different backgrounds and help me in analyzing different points of view more effectively.
My diverse background as well as my pursuit of knowledge in various areas would be very helpful to me as a member of the SOA Board. I will work with other members of the Board to craft forward-looking strategies to help actuarial community keep up with the technological/societal changes.
Respectful and prudent use of resources is an important function of all board members. Explain how you have demonstrated this characteristic in either your work or volunteer experiences and how it will carry over to your role on the SOA Board.
The biggest challenge for any organization is using resources effectively, because no organization in the world have access to unlimited resources. In my first role after college as a manufacturing engineer in a chemical company that was facing heavy competition due to globalization, one of my main responsibilities was to cut costs by a lot, for our products be more competitive. That meant our team had to be creative in how we can use the limited resources that were available to us. Some of the ways, we cut costs were 1) to run utility plants only for the time we really need them, 2) recycle metal piping and other plumbing equipment to reduce the purchase of new materials by 33% and 3) implement healthy lifestyle practices that were designed to cut the elevator use. These activities went a long way in reducing the operating costs.
I also volunteered to manage an employee dining facility at one of my previous employers in which I was responsible for providing healthy meals to employees at a reasonable price. I had to set the menu, purchase the ingredients for the meals and estimate the number of employees that will eat a meal at the facility on a regular day to reduce wastage and keep the cost per meal down.
The efficient management of resources in my previous work roles and volunteer experience has helped me to focus on the needs of the stakeholders and organizational requirements and eliminate activities that doesn’t add value to the stakeholders. As a member of the Board I will look closely at how the money and time spent on various activities helps the actuarial community in general and whether they are the right investments.
Provide a brief description of your professional background and the type of work you currently do and explain how these experiences have prepared you for the Elected Board Member role.
I started my career as a manufacturing engineer in a chemical company, where I managed a team of unionized workers that was responsible for scaling up the production of new products. After that I joined an MBA program and had worked in a variety of roles from IT to Finance and Accounting before finally deciding on being an actuary. In my first few years as an actuary, I did rotations in various business areas: Property and Casualty, Life Insurance, Employee Benefits, Asset Management and Corporate Actuarial. For the last 12 years, I worked in Long-Term Care Insurance in a variety of roles from pricing products, reporting financial results, experience analysis and reserve adequacy testing. I currently manage Long-Term Care experience analysis and valuation teams and am responsible for data analysis, financial reporting and reserve adequacy analysis.
In my current and prior roles, I have worked closely with risk management, claims and policy operations teams to understand and improve processes. I have also been on committees to set consistent standards across products to calculate reserves.
I think my diverse background in terms of working in different countries as well as working in a wide variety of areas would be a very good addition to the Board. I would be able to effectively work with people from variety of backgrounds and can bring a wide range of viewpoints on the topics.
Volunteer and Governance Experience
Describe how your previous volunteer, personal and governance experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board and organization.
I have been volunteering with SOA ever since I became an ASA. I served on project oversight groups, LTC experience committee and section councils of Long-Term Care, Social Insurance and Public Finance and Taxation sections. I also written articles for SOA section newsletters and Contingencies. I have a good understanding of how the SOA works and have worked with SOA staff on many occasions, which will help me become an effective Board member.
My other volunteer experiences as managing employees dining facility has taught me some valuable lessons in effectively managing limited resources. My volunteer work at a local soup kitchen has helped me in understanding how our profession can play a significant role in reforming public insurance programs and in alleviating some of the societal problems. All these experiences would help me significantly in strengthening my contributions to the SOA Board.