Xu (Vincent) Xuan, FSA 2012, MAAA, CFA
Lead Director, Head of Statutory Valuation
Jersey City, NJ
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
I recently joined AXA Equitable as the Head of Statutory Valuation. Leading a team of twenty actuaries, I am accountable for ensuring quality production and analysis of statutory results, timely filing of key year-end actuarial publications, and communications of results to senior management. Prior to this role, I served as the Head of Annuity Modeling, and provided modeling and analytical solutions for valuation, forecasting and capital management purposes in the individual annuity business of Prudential Financial.
Primary Area of Practice:
Life and Annuity
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Financial Reporting, Technology, International, Modeling
Why do you want to be on the Board?
As technology rapidly disrupts the financial services industry, it also brings new opportunities. For actuarial professionals, we are at a critical juncture to revamp the vision, mission and value proposition of our profession, particularly in tackling new competitive forces from other analytical professions such as data scientists and artificial intelligence engineers. As a millennial actuary, I am eager to infuse the latest technologies into pathways to fellowships, professional development as well as membership engagement. I look to tap into my innovative spirit and leadership experience to further empower the board, reinvigorate the Society and inspire the next generation of actuaries.
Ethics and Transparency
Ethics and transparency are essential to professional practice and service on the board. How will your own ethics and views on transparency influence your decisions and actions as a member of the SOA board?
Throughout my career, I have always held myself and my colleagues to the highest ethical standards, regardless of how big or small the decision is. The principles of decision-making are simple but fundamental to the successes of the profession. I build an inclusive and transparent culture which promotes objectivity and empathy. In fact, I make sure every voice at the table is heard on equal footing where no one, regardless of title, is left out of the conversation. Diversity, objectivity and transparency are all critical elements in building an inclusive and progressive culture. Finally, I constantly self-evaluate so I can build on prior achievements and learn from past mistakes.
As a board member, I look to promote these guiding principles in the Board’s decision-making. Building an inclusive and transparent culture means engaging stakeholders, increasing the intellectual diversity of the Board, tolerating different or sometimes opposing ideas. Having an unbiased view means leaving prejudice and stereotypes aside, and making objective evaluations based on broader, long-term goals rather than specific interests. Learning from mistakes means accepting failures, learning from them and driving the Society to be more agile, ethical and trustworthy.
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 advance the direction of the SOA. We need both leaders and team members. Describe a situation from either your professional or volunteer experiences that demonstrated where you can be effective in each of these roles.
I’d like to point to my experience as Co-President of USTC alumni association in Greater New York to illustrate my leadership effectiveness and collaborative nature. When I first took the role, the association was a mere handful of volunteers with a $500 cash balance. My fellow Co-President and I had to start from scratch. This meant recruiting new volunteers, restructuring the organization, and masterminding a fundraising campaign. After two years, our mutual efforts built a team of over twenty actively engaged volunteers, registered the organization as 501(c)3, established a board of nine highly accomplished alumni, and grew the member equity to six digits. We also launched the first alumni summit that, today, draws over 600 attendees.
When I first stepped into the role, I focused on the leadership aspects: defining strategic objectives, driving tactical decisions and overseeing implementation. I also managed the team of volunteers across various activities from mentorship programs to social networking and even events planning. However, unlike employees, motivating and engaging volunteers with no obligation to perform posed additional challenges. I took this as an opportunity to enhance my ability to inspire and motivate people in upholding a strong sense of community by instilling an open, transparent and respectful environment. Within this culture, the team felt a strong sense of belonging and dedication to our core mission: provide an outstanding alumni community.
As my role matured, I joined the board as a director. Since then, I have taken on a coach-player role. My mission was not only to pass on the knowledge I developed to fellow board members, but to also collaborate with others to make objective decisions in the best interest of the association. In fact, when I reflect upon my roles at USTCAAGNY, I felt that this was my most rewarding contribution.
Board members need to exhibit curiosity and a desire to learn about areas that may potentially impact the SOA and the profession. How will you apply that knowledge as an elected Board Member?
How we proactively evolve our profession by embracing new ideas is key to our future growth and success. Driven both by my career needs and personal interest, I actively look for ways to apply the latest technologies such as AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing towards my field. As a Board Member, I will promote the examination and adoption of such technologies to better serve our industry. Through my own research, here are a few initiatives to consider on how to do so.
- Further Promote Predictive Analytics: Incorporating predictive analytics into the ASA curriculum shows the profession’s commitment towards revolutionizing our analytical toolset. I aim to promote this skillset to credentialed actuaries who are practicing assumption studies, customer analytics, underwriting, etc.
- Incorporate Programming Skills into our Field: To compete with other analytical professions, we need to emphasize more on the core, mathematical-based programming skills such as R and Python. I would leverage my knowledge on modeling and analytical programming to drive the Board’s decisions in incorporating this into the curriculum and continuing education programs.
- Market the Tech-Savviness of Actuaries: I will apply my knowledge from other technical frontiers to revamp actuaries’ branding. A tech-savvy image will more easily attract those pursuing this career path, not to mention more employers from which to tap for our talent pool.
- Revamp Existing Skillsets: With new technologies, dynamic pricing, real-time underwriting, AI-driven claim processing will dramatically change the actuarial field. I would promote thorough research on how AI, Big Data, Cloud and even Blockchain technologies will impact our professional landscape, and how we should revamp our existing skillsets to embrace these 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.
Most recently, I led a group of twenty actuaries whose mission is to provide quality modeling solutions to various stakeholders, often with competing priorities and limited resources. Although the team is talented, I constantly see the increasing work demand exceed the team’s capacity. As team lead, I must prioritize all the requests from stakeholders and balance their urgency versus importance against team capacity. I engage my internal clients in a transparent conversation to solve any potential conflicts and find a mutually agreed-upon set of measurable goals, deliverables and milestones. Here are a few examples:
- Long-term Versus Short-term Deliverables: When prioritizing, I look to strike a fine balance between long-term and short-term requests. I avoid rushing to deliver on immediate needs by neglecting the long-term vision. Instead, I look for synergistic projects. Keeping this in mind allows me and my team to deliver on tight deadlines while keeping ourselves on track to achieve long-term goals.
- Value Driven Prioritization: How I allocate my resources towards different modeling projects also depends on how much value each project adds. To receive the best bang for the buck, the Board needs to carefully review the value proposition of each proposal and how that ties with our value system.
- Accountability for the Financial Consequences: When I evaluate the resource needs, I review our resource pools carefully. Whether it be full-time employees or contractors, I explore various options and structure an optimal team to get the job done within the confines of our budget. As a Board Member, I need to take ownership on the financial impact on the organization and look for the best ways to optimize the use of our limited resources.
Provide a brief description of your professional background and the type of work you have performed and explain how these experiences have prepared you as an Elected Board Member and qualify you in carrying out the strategic direction of the SOA.
My broad actuarial experience, leadership skills and interests for millennial actuaries will help drive the strategic direction of SOA.
- Broad Actuarial Experience: Throughout my 14-year career, I have rotated through various lines of businesses, including life, retirement and annuity, as well as various areas of practice including valuation, pricing and modeling. With experience in both the US and China, I am always looking for opportunities to broaden my network among actuaries globally. Doing so has privileged me with multiple leadership opportunities across SOA internationally. The breadth of my career gave me opportunities to overcome a variety of new challenges. This also allowed me to build perspectives that clearly link SOA’s strategic decisions to their direct impacts on the front-lines.
- Leadership Skills: I have developed solid leadership skills throughout my career. Previously, as the VP, Head of Modeling for the Annuity Business at Prudential, I was directly responsibility for a team of twenty in providing modeling solutions to the Firm. What I am most proud of my role is not the sheer number of successful projects we have delivered, but rather how I transformed a low-morale group to a highly motivated and productive one. My team leadership, project management and relationship management skills are well demonstrated in my rapidly expanding responsibilities at Prudential.
- Interests for Millennial Actuaries: Born in the 1980s, I myself am a millennium actuary. Inspired by everchanging technologies, I am always excited about infusing technology and new elements into our profession. What motivates me the most is leading the community to envision the future for the actuary industry, creating a tangible road map, and delivering on execution. This will be the only way to enable future generations of actuaries to compete against other professions in this rapidly-changing world.
Volunteer and Governance Experience
Describe how your volunteer, personal and governance experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board, the organization, and strategic plan execution.
- International Background: With 14 years of actuarial experience in both the US and China, I am always enthusiastic about building connections among actuaries across different continents. Recently I served as the Chair of the SOA International Section, an Ambassador Program Committee member, and an International Committee member. I also served as the Contributing Editor for the Actuary magazine (Lead Editor for the June-July 2017 issue) and the Editor-in-Chief for the SOA International News for a few years, promoting international content from overseas actuaries.
- Educational Volunteering and Governance: I have always enjoyed contributing back to society though active volunteerism. I have served as a Board member and Co-President of the Alumni Association in Greater New York for my alma-mater. I also founded a “Yuehua” scholarship fund to award the outstanding students at my middle school.
- Unique Flying Experience: Since I received my pilot license, I’ve flown to the Bahamas, Key West, the Manhattan skyline and other locations. I also joined the Civil Air Patrol’s emergency services for air surveillance and disaster relief. In fact, I am working towards realizing a lifelong dream of piloting myself around the globe, while hoping to build connections with other actuarial societies through the trip.