Arpita Das, FSA 2013
Brief Description of the type of work you currently do:
Risk, Reserving and Reporting under IFRS and Solvency II
Primary Area of Practice:
Life and Health
Other Areas of Practice/Interests:
Pricing, Product Development and Analytics
Why do you want to be on the Board?
My professional and volunteering activities have been driven by a passion for advancing the actuarial profession internationally. As a potential Board member, I am excited to give back with a focus on international strategy, membership needs and social impact.
I have brought perspectives from my experience and those of our membership in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia in serving as Chair of the International Section and on the International Committee which advises the Board. These roles have cultivated my knowledge and interest in how the Board functions. I believe I am well-positioned to serve effectively.
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.
I have 11+ years of experience in the Life and Health space, with management roles held across product, function, countries and cultures. The breadth of my experience positions me strongly in two areas which will help drive the SOA forward: (i) a close understanding of the needs of members in an increasingly globalized industry and (ii) the ability to effectively lead and communicate in diverse environments.
In my current role as Senior Actuary at Allianz Partners, I am the lead Life actuary and project manager for reserving, risk and reporting deliverables for international employee benefits. This portfolio spans 200+ countries and territories, and I work across multiple regulatory regimes with teams located across the globe. Prior to this, I was Corporate Vice President & Actuary at New York Life Insurance in New York City where I worked in various areas including pricing, product development, risk and analytics.
My interest in SOA membership needs as an international was sparked when I moved from New York Life Insurance, based in New York City, to Allianz Partners, based in Dublin. At New York Life I had spent years developing my expertise across various functions in the US Life & Annuity market. However, soon after beginning at Allianz Partners I was presented with a very different challenge. I had to manage a team in Paris through quarter-end production, involving International Group Health valuation, Solvency II reporting and models coded in French - all of which were completely new to me. My technical and leadership skills were challenged, and ultimately rewarded, at a new level. This was one of numerous cross-cultural, and cross-technical, experiences through which I developed an appreciation for the needs of SOA members from an international perspective, as well as the ability to quickly adapt my leadership style across different environments.
Volunteer, Governance and Personal Experience
Describe how your volunteer, governance and personal experiences would strengthen your contributions to the SOA Board, the organization, and strategic plan execution.
I have held volunteer roles of increasing responsibility in recent years. I believe this reflects my passion for advancing the profession, member needs and social impact. My volunteering within the SOA has been focused on the SOA’s international strategy and members. My volunteering outside the SOA has been focused on the social impact of our industry.
Within the SOA, I started as the Africa Regional Editor for the International Section Newsletter. I moved on to become Chief Editor, Section Chair and am now serving my second year on the International Committee. These roles have given me close understanding of the Board’s functions. I have also had the privilege of working with SOA members and staff around the world. I would continue to leverage these relationships towards executing the strategic plan.
Outside the SOA, I have served as Vice-Chairperson of Actuaries Without Borders, a microfinance Fellow in Kenya and editor of the book ‘Actuaries in Microinsurance’. Like many of our members, I am passionate about our social impact as actuaries and look to represent this angle.
Finally, I am an enthusiastic and experienced public speaker. My ability to engage diverse audiences will undoubtedly aid me in serving effectively on the Board.
Please list your relevant volunteer experience. Please include the name of the organization, your role, and approximate dates.
SOA volunteering experience, focused on the SOA’s international strategy and member needs:
- International Committee Member, SOA Board Advisory Body (October 2018 – Present)
- International Section Council Member (February 2017 – Present)
- Chairperson, International Section (October 2018 – October 2019)
- Chief Editor, International Section Newsletter (August 2016 – October 2018)
- Africa Regional Editor, International Section Newsletter (July 2015 – August 2016)
Volunteering outside the SOA, focused on social impact of the industry:
- Microinsurance Advisor, Bankers Without Borders-USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Initiative (May 2020-Present)
- Vice-Chairperson, Actuaries Without Borders, IAA Section (May 2019 – Present)
- Board Member, Actuaries Without Borders, IAA Section (May 2018 – Present)
- Ghana Project Manager & Global Mentorship Committee Member, Actuaries Without Borders, IAA Section (May 2015 – July 2017)
- Kiva Microfinance Fellowship, VisionFund Kenya, Nairobi (May 2015 – August 2015)
- Editor, Actuaries in Microinsurance, ACTEX Learning (May 2015)
- Panelist, International Section & Committee Updates, SOA Annual Meeting, Toronto (October 2019)
- Presenter, Data Analytics, Actuarial Society of Zimbabwe 5th Annual Convention, Harare (June 2019)
- Workshop Lead, 3-Day Data Analytics Training, CREAD, Algiers (December 2018)
Ethics and Transparency
Ethics and transparency are essential to professional practice and service on the board. Discuss ethics and transparency challenges you might expect to face in your role as elected board member, and describe how you would approach these challenges.
As members of the SOA and the wider actuarial profession, ethics and transparency are fundamental to our day-to-day work. In my own career I access standards of practice, governance and regulatory guidelines with the objective of positioning my decision-making and general conduct in a way that is transparently communicated to all stakeholders in a timely manner and unambiguously led by objective, ethical principles. As Board member I would hold myself and my fellow Board members to a similar standard.
For a collective body like the Board, upholding these standards would involve stating decision-making guidelines upfront using objective metrics and thresholds as far as possible. Open communication between all stakeholders, clear disclosures and documentation of decision-making processes are necessary to ensure transparency. These measures would need to ultimately draw out the principles underlying decisions and actions to demonstrate ethical standards, without any ambiguity around potential individual incentives being at play.
In addition, successful application of these standards will require the backdrop of an inclusive culture where all stakeholders are given equal opportunity to speak and be heard.
I would look to myself and fellow Board members to uphold these standards and foster an inclusive environment.
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.
My involvement with the International Section provides a good example as I have had the opportunity to alternate between team member and leader roles, both of which have been thoroughly rewarding. On the Newsletter, I started as Regional Editor and ended my time as Chief Editor. I also joined the International Section council in 2017, held my term as Chair between 2018 and 2019, and have now returned as council member on the new Chair’s team until 2020.
The fundamentals for being a successful team player and leader are similar. The ability to communicate clearly, work in a transparent manner, listen empathetically, make credible decisions, act consistently and ultimately to build strong working relationships are key to success in both roles.
On the Newsletter, my role as Regional Editor hinged on doing the groundwork of contacting authors in the region, encouraging and advising them through the writing process, and building relationships. While similar skills were required as Chief Editor, my focus shifted from authors to building working relationships within our Editorial team, all of whom were located around the globe. I took the time to contact them individually, motivate and provide each editor ownership of their respective region. I ensured all efforts went appreciated.
On the council, my year as Chair was similarly focused on building camaraderie among council members, with the added consideration as leader of providing motivation and appreciation. To this end I held a meeting with the objective of collectively drawing out a specific mission statement for the year. This served as a strong motivational basis. I also ensured all volunteer efforts were recognized. Now having rolled off as Chair, I focus on my individual areas of responsibility and respond within the direction set by our new leadership team.
Describe how you stay intellectually engaged and how you will apply your personal knowledge as an Elected Board Member.
Intellectual engagement is a necessity for us as actuaries. My own engagement takes place on three fronts: professional, volunteering and personal.
On the professional front, I work in the ever-changing area of financial reporting and risk. My day-to-day work requires me to stay abreast of multiple regulatory regimes, frameworks and guidelines. I also continuously tap into my network to understand various topics including Brazilian mortality tables, French GAAP regulations and GI valuation. While I am an avid reader, I also recognize that direct conversations with practitioners can often be most effective.
On the volunteer front, I engage on both technical and leadership standpoints. From a technical perspective I have learned about financial inclusion and data analytics. My interest in financial inclusion drove my microfinance Fellowship in Kenya. As Editor of the International Section Newsletter, I actively sourced numerous articles on the topic. Data analytics was an interest that I took to a new intellectual level while creating and running a 3-day workshop. From a leadership standpoint, I have chaired meetings and presented at a variety of events. I take each opportunity to learn about different environments and how best to facilitate engagement.
On the personal front, I am a passionate learner of global cultures and current affairs. This originally stems from my nomadic upbringing between different countries. After graduating from high school in India, my academic curiosity was nurtured in Pennsylvania, in the liberal arts environment of Swarthmore College. More recently, I completed a Higher Diploma in Leadership where my thesis was on the expat experience. I also actively stay up to date on current affairs and particularly enjoy BBC Global News and The Economist.
I have brought all three fronts of engagement in contributing effectively to the SOA so far. I would continue to do so as Board member.
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.
As actuaries we are acutely aware of the impact of resource management. On one hand, these decisions impact the bottom line and prudence is required; on the other hand, longer term goals like business strategy may require short term investments. I continuously consider this fundamental balance and would do so as a Board member when evaluating use of the SOA’s resources.
On an individual level, my motto revolves around two questions: (i) is this a decision I would make on my personal time and budget and (ii) does this optimize others’ constraints, accounting for individuals and organizations involved. Between my professional and volunteer activities I work with colleagues in different countries across different time zones almost every day: France, US, Australia, China and others. Travel is a limited proposition – a precious resource. Thus, in driving projects I carefully consider the two questions and work to optimize email, phone calls, video conferencing and documentation to efficiently achieve goals across different teams. Having an optimized remote management style also positions me well in identifying occasions where face-to-face time is necessary and how best to utilize that time.
On a collective level, transparency, disclosures and consensus among different stakeholders is the key consideration. In my current role as lead Life actuary I am actively involved with company-wide project plans which prioritize and account for software, IT development, operations work-streams and regulatory compliance for our suite of Life products including Life, AD&D and Disability. It can be challenging to balance different stakeholders: for example, one may need to prioritize between reporting requirements and the client experience. I find however that with open communication, consensus and optimal resource management can be achieved.
I would exercise similar caution and decision-making principles on an individual and collective level as a Board member.