I went to a combinatorics meeting recently. Among the technical talks there was one talk by Dr. Angela Koller on graph theory in industry. Dr. Koller is a mathematician by training who had worked as a research assistant at Royal Holloway. She was now part of the business research team as an actuarial consultant in JLT Insurance.
Dr. Koller gave an overview of the aims of her company and her team. The team dealt with dynamic financial analysis, financial modeling, pricing, natural catastrophe modeling, insurance aggregation analysis. She stressed the stability of the insurance industry which is needed where ever there is an insurable interest.
She outlined the mathematical aspect of her role and said that her team-mates had backgrounds from accounting, engineering, physics, computer science, geography and mathematics. There were a couple of PhDs in her team and a good percentage of Masters holders. Dr. Koller presented a few cases where she had to use general mathematical problem solving skills to model and solve problems in risk analysis especially related to catastrophes.
Dr. Koller stressed the importance of gaining the actuarial certification to do well in the Insurance industry. However, she did not plan to get an official certification as she had picked up the required skills and an official certification required a further three to four years of intense study and examinations. She was of the view, that even if an insurance employee is not taking actuarial exams, it is worth refreshing the concepts and regularly consulting the training material.
It was really helpful for her to stay after the talk and answer various questions from final year PhDs concerning the job market. Some one asked if she was using her graph theory training in her job. Although, her PhD did not directly apply to her job, she maintained that it was the skills acquired during her PhD which were valuable. She was of the view, that it is these skills which should be emphasized in non-academic job applications. It was interesting to see that where as most PhD seeking a job in the city turn to investment banking, there are other industries with interesting challenges and rewarding careers.