Finance, math, lead Do to actuarial science professional program

Early in Viet Do’s college career, he didn’t know how to combine the two things he was most interested in, applied mathematics and finance. During his sophomore year, the math and economics and business double major went on a career tour to Minnesota and visited Allianz Insurance, where he heard about actuarial science.

Viet Do is combining his interest in finance and math in Transamerica's actuarial science professional program.
Viet Do is combining his interest in finance and math in Transamerica’s actuarial science professional program.

“I got intrigued,” he said, “and thought I should give it a try.”

Do studied for and took the first of the five preliminary exams that lead to becoming an Associate of the Society of Actuaries. He passed the exam, and he found that he liked the work.

The process of earning an actuarial fellowship can take five or six years, and requires eight or more tests. “There’s a big time commitment,” Do said, “so I should enjoy it, too.”

Once he had started the exam process, it was time for him to find a way to put his knowledge into action. This led him to Chris Conrad, a former economics and business professor at Cornell who now works in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the Transamerica insurance corporation.

Conrad told him about both an internship opportunity, which he took advantage of after his junior year, and Transamerica’s professional program, where actuaries rotate through departments while studying for exams. By the end of his internship—before his senior year even started—he had a job offer. Now that he has graduated from Cornell, he will  be an actuarial student in the Transamerica professional program.

“The economic theory I learned at Cornell helped me during the actuarial exams,” Do said. “Courses like Financial Accounting and Financial Management really helped me during the first exam in particular.”

Courses in other disciplines, including  U.S. history and philosophy professor Paul Gray’s course on utopias, helped to challenge him in different ways and offered perspectives he wouldn’t have considered with a laser focus on math and economics. To Do, this was a good thing, because while he came to Cornell with a strong background in those areas, he had less experience with the humanities.

“It was a learning curve for me,” he said.

At Transamerica, Do will have the chance to rotate to a different department every 18 to 24 months as he studies to earn his actuarial fellowship. Once he’s completed the program, he’ll have the option to choose a department to work in or to continue rotating. This is as far as he’s planned for now, but Do eventually wants to return to his native Vietnam to work as an actuary.

The field is underdeveloped in the country, he said, but training programs have started to emerge.

“There’s a lot of possibility in that market.”