27 Years With the SOA

Reflections from a university professor Shang Hanji

Photo: iStock.com/francescoch

Chinese Version

Not long ago, I caught up with a few friends and discussed my actuarial career. We talked about how I studied in the mathematics department at Fudan University, and how after graduation I engaged in the practical application of mathematics and entered the field of actuarial insurance. I then served as the director of the AIA-Fudan Actuarial Center and promoted the Society of Actuaries (SOA) actuarial science courses. In 2020, I was honored to receive a Partner Volunteer Award from the SOA.

Professor Shang Hanji
Professor Shang Hanji

Everything in the past seems recent to me, but I’ve realized I have been associated with the SOA for decades. At the invitation of a friend, I wrote this article to retrace my memories of the AIA-Fudan Actuarial Center and my involvement with the SOA.

The story begins 30 years ago. In 1991, Deng Xiaoping (one of the main leaders of China and a Chinese revolutionary) left Beijing and took an inspection tour in southern China. During the tour, he gave many speeches, and a common topic was the resistance to reform and opening up. He pointed out that China must be open-minded and vigorously promote reform, open up and speed up various aspects of national economic construction. Xiaoping’s southern tour speech left a profound impact on China. All industries—especially finance, insurance and related actuarial industries—began discussing how to speed up the pace of reform and how to open up and promote new development. The policy leniency was measured in the fields of fiscal, financial and foreign trade.

AIA was eager to embrace the changes in the industry, adapt to the needs of the times and use its identity as an insurance pioneer to contribute to the development of China’s insurance industry. In 1992, AIA seized the golden opportunity of reform, opening up and the rapid development of finance to make a return to China after decades of departure. It became the first foreign insurance company in China and began to hire actuaries to promote actuarial education. At that time, there was an extreme shortage of actuaries, and the demand for actuarial talents increased. Given this reason, the department of mathematics at Fudan University decided to expand the application fields of mathematics. Since 1993, actuarial science has been offered in applied mathematics and has trained a large number of actuaries in Shanghai and throughout China.

However, in the early 1990s in China, there were no internationally recognized actuaries, no students majoring in actuarial science and no examination centers in Shanghai—which were huge obstacles in promoting the development of insurance and the actuarial industry. Therefore, AIA requested that the SOA set up an examination center in Shanghai to provide learning and internship opportunities for students who intended to pursue actuarial science as a career.

AIA-Fudan Actuarial Center
AIA-Fudan Actuarial Center

In 1994, AIA cooperated with Fudan University to set up the AIA-Fudan Actuarial Center and held AIA-Fudan Actuarial Training Courses for free to recruit students from all universities in Shanghai to learn actuarial science through SOA courses. The goal was to train a group of actuaries with international vision to promote the development of China’s financial and insurance industries through mature, market-oriented and targeted courses. This was the beginning of the cooperation among Fudan Actuarial Science, AIA-Fudan Actuarial Center and the SOA, and it was a key step for Fudan University, AIA and the entire domestic insurance industry. In the same year, I was invited to work with AIA as its director of the Actuarial Center.

The AIA-Fudan Actuarial Training Course recruits students every six months and to date has launched 53 sessions. Even during the SARS epidemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic, it has trained at least 600–700 students for 27 years without interruption. In addition, the students in the training class have achieved outstanding results. The passing rate for SOA exams remains above 80 percent, and most students are engaged in actuarial-related practical work in China’s financial and insurance industries, including work at insurance companies, reinsurance companies, insurance brokers, actuarial consulting companies, accounting firms and so on. Dozens of people have become part of the business backbone in the financial industry, serving as CEO, chief risk officer (CRO), chief actuary, partner and so on. They have become the pillar of China’s insurance industry today.

Looking back on the 27 years of cooperation between Chinese actuarial education and the SOA, I have many feelings. This was not only a fate driven by China’s reform and opening up, but also a cooperation that came from the common aspirations shared by both sides. In June 2021, the SOA held its 6th Annual China Symposium in Shanghai. Seeing the participation of so many outstanding talents from academia and industry, I am full of hope for the future development of the insurance and actuarial industries. Even though the development of the insurance industry is full of various challenges, I see the positive progress made by the SOA, AIA and actuarial science as a discipline. They all remain true to their original aspirations and work together to promote the development of actuarial education in China.

Personally, from my 50s to 80s, I have been committed to promoting SOA-related education, training and exams in China. I often say that I am probably the oldest SOA volunteer, and I am very proud of that. In fact, a lot of things are done by seniors in the profession—we all think what we are doing is good for the actuarial career, and it is very meaningful work. Whether in universities, enterprises or industry associations, we enjoy training and building actuarial talents in China and promoting the development of China’s financial and insurance industries as the direction of our lifelong efforts. I am honored to share this unforgettable experience with my friends and to be recognized as a SOA Partner Volunteer.

Time is fleeting, and I will never forget why and where I started. I wish health and happiness to all of my friends and fellow actuaries, and good luck to the SOA.

Shang Hanji is a professor at the school of Mathematical Sciences at Fudan University.

Statements of fact and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Society of Actuaries or the respective authors’ employers.

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