So William, how did you find your way into the world of Actuarial Science?
I enjoyed learning in school and realised, from quite a young age, that I was pretty good at maths and science. So, I knew that I would pursue a career involving Maths or Science. Before I came to know about Actuarial Science, my mind was on accountancy or medicine. In fact, on completion of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), I had managed to secure a place to study medicine at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.
However, with the sponsorship of my late uncle the late Edward Cheruiyot and his family (to whom I am eternally grateful), I was able to join a sixth form college in Nairobi to do UK A-levels with the intention of studying Medicine at a UK university. At Arboretum college, my very inspiring Math teacher, Mr. Yule, spoke very highly about the Actuarial profession. Ultimately, I dropped the idea of pursuing a medical career and instead I came to the UK to study Actuarial Science. Looking back, I am very happy with that decision.
Could you tell us a little bit more about how you moved to the UK?
My Uncle very kindly continued my sponsorship enabling me to attend the University of Swansea pursuing a degree in actuarial science. But just one year into a 3-year degree, my uncle passed away. I was devastated as I had not only lost a great man, mentor and inspiring figure in my life, but I also lost funding for my degree and I almost completely dropped out of university. I went through a difficult period in my life. But, through the intervention of some very kind people, the Kenyan government through the Ministry of Education stepped in and gave me a full scholarship to continue my studies. This moment truly changed my life and for this I am so incredibly grateful. I changed universities and joined as a second year at the university of Kent where I graduated with a First-Class degree in Actuarial Science, ultimately a great result.
For those reading who aren’t sure, could you give us a brief insight into what an Actuary does and what a senior actuary like yourself gets up to on a day-to-day basis?
As senior Actuary at Zenith, I get involved in a wide range of interesting work including leading on some consulting projects and helping clients deliver on their BAU Actuarial function obligations.
What I really enjoy is engaging with our client’s leadership teams via our outsourcing actuarial services, and effectively being part of their business. We seek to go beyond the regulatory compliance requirements and support our clients to bring useful insights and actuarial analytics into their strategic planning, business communication and decision making. For example, monthly solvency reporting with full analysis of change, year-end projected balance sheets for business planning, investment strategy optimisation, and product development support. I enjoy the variety and broad actuarial experience that I am gaining and the support and enthusiasm of my Zenith colleagues.
Were there any other careers that you considered whilst growing up?
As I mentioned earlier, I had secured a place to study medicine. I think my family really wanted me to embark on this profession too but are now happy with the path I chose to take. The skills you learn training to be an actuary are applicable to lots of other wider fields too.
If you could invite three guests to a fantasy dinner party, who would you invite and why and what would you cook?
Apart from my family and friends, I would love to invite Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda. I don’t necessarily subscribe to everything he has done but I am inspired how he managed to pick Rwanda up from the precipice following the 1994 genocide and transformed it into a stable thriving economy with good living standards and people living in peace. It would be interesting to hear how he went about this and future plans. Rwanda is also a sponsor of my football team Arsenal, so would like to congratulate him for that. Unfortunately, none in the club qualifies to partake on my dinner table at the moment, they need to find a way of climbing up the other table first!
I would also invite Barak Obama. His story of coming from humble beginnings and rising up to take on the political establishment in the United States and ultimately winning the Presidency is inspiring. He’s a great storyteller and an exceptional leader. He also has Kenyan heritage, so that is something we have in common. It would be interesting to listen to exchanges between him and Paul Kagame on various issues.
I also love nature and the environment so I would love to also invite Sir David Attenborough, who is great at articulating issues in this area. With the extreme weather events recorded around the world, this is a particularly relevant to our society today.
In terms of what I would cook, it would have to be a dish that takes me back to the Kenyan village where I grew up – that is Ugali (made from maize or millet flour) alongside a goat meat and indigenous vegetable stew, washed down with Mursik (which is like a yogurt only much better). It is absolutely delightful meal and I am sure they would be asking for seconds and more!
How did you find your way to working for Zenith?
Prior to joining Zenith, I worked within the life insurance industry, about 8 years at Retirement Advantage (now part of Canada Life UK), 6 years at Legal & General and 2 years in GE Insurance Solutions with the key areas of experience being Solvency II reporting, mainly on annuity portfolios, matching adjustment portfolios, usage of partial internal models (including equity release component), calculation of transitional measures, and production of quantitative info for the ORSA analysis.
This is my first experience working in a consultancy. It’s such an exciting role and I am enjoying the variety of work and the opportunity it presents to develop my career further. I made this career move during lockdown, so it was certainly a challenge getting up to speed with a new role remotely. But the support within the team and the leadership has been incredible. It is refreshing to work with such a professional high-skilled group of people. I’m really looking forward to being able to meet everyone in person in the near future.
And when you’re not busy being an Actuary, what do you find yourself doing?
I have a 6-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, they both keep me very busy and I try to spend as much time with them as possible! My son has also got into football and on weekends I am effectively a taxi driver taking him to training and games. He is also an Arsenal supporter (by default, to keep a roof over his head!😊). I have always been an Arsenal fan and my favourite season was 2003/2004, the era of the invincibles with legends like Thierry Henri and Patrick Vierra, whom I would very happily invite to my dinner party too.