Keep Moving ForwardAn actuary shares his personal and professional journeys to fulfillment February 2022
Vladimir Krepkiy, FSA, FCA, FCIA, MAAA, considers himself a serial immigrant due to life circumstances. Born in a small town in the former Soviet Union’s northeast, where winter lasts eight months a year, Vlad and his family moved to Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed. Later, the family relocated to Israel for better economic and social conditions. Then in 2001, shortly before Vlad turned 19, his family immigrated to Canada. In 2018, a consulting firm in Chicago recruited him, and this is now Vlad’s fourth year living in the United States.
During his time at the University of Manitoba, it did not take long for Vlad to decide to pursue the actuarial profession. “I was good at math, but I didn’t see myself in academia,” he says. “Once I heard about actuarial science, I researched it and saw how it used applied math and statistics and had significant real-world implications—all aspects I was interested in.” Vlad continues: “Later on, once I started doing actuarial work, I was even more convinced I chose the right profession.”
In this Q&A, Vlad talks about his personal and professional journeys that have shaped who he is today.
You identify as a serial immigrant. Of all the countries you lived in and societies you integrated into, which transition was the hardest and why?
Hands down, Israel was the most challenging. It was 180 degrees from what I knew in all aspects of life. Language-wise, my family knew neither Arabic nor Hebrew before arriving in the country, and we had to learn to read from right to left with alphabets that had zero similarities to English or any of the Slavic languages. Culturally, socially accepted norms were different from the traditions in my culture. Life in Israel moves at a faster pace.
When I moved to Israel in the mid-1990s, another challenge was the lack of access to information compared to today’s world, where information is readily available on smartphones. A visit to a local grocery store could evoke a full spectrum of emotions, to say the least. It took me two to three years to be able to communicate completely and accurately. But once I was able to overcome the language barrier, it was all a positive experience.
I have a lot of respect for immigrants. Anyone who moves to a new country goes through such a character-building journey, not unlike actuarial exam writing. Immigration is not for the faint of heart. Hats off to my parents.
You have been a valuation actuary, pricing actuary and now a consulting actuary. Which hat do you like the most and why?
Consulting fits me best and is the hat I like to wear most of the time. I currently work in an actuarial consulting firm that provides a wide spectrum of actuarial and related solutions. Because it is a small company, I get involved in different areas on a regular basis: pricing, auditing, compliance, reinsurance, product management and appointed actuary work, to name a few. It is rare that I work in a single practice area in any given day. This is what keeps my interest and keeps me fully engaged.
Having said that, I started my actuarial career in the insurance realm in Canada. I would not be where I am today without my time at Sun Life (valuation), RBC Insurance (risk management) and Bank of Montreal Insurance (pricing). I am grateful for every experience and the people with and from whom I’ve had the opportunity to work and learn.
You serve as the appointed actuary for two financial institutions. How does it feel to be accountable for such a crucial responsibility?
This will be my third year serving as an appointed actuary, where my main responsibility is to opine on the annual adequacy of reserves. Many consulting firms like mine serve as external appointed actuaries for small-to-medium-sized financial institutions. In our market space, it is a common practice for an actuary to serve as appointed actuary for several financial institutions.
Being an appointed actuary is a step up from my previous roles. In this capacity, I report directly to my client, and a government regulatory body reviews my work. At first, it felt overwhelming, as the stakes and expectations are high. Your work not only has a direct impact on a company’s financials, but also the company’s business and strategic directions. Also, having a government body review your work means the cost of an error could be high—your work gets scrutinized on a whole new level. Overall, it has been a rewarding experience for me, not because of the type of work involved, but because of the value I bring to my clients through appointed actuary work.
Many of your clients are Fraternal Benefit Societies (fraternals). What are their key concerns?
As organizations that are largely made up of members who share similar values and principles, typically of the same cultural or religious background/affiliation, fraternals share a challenge other financial institutions currently face: how to attract younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z.
According to the American Fraternal Alliance (AFA), sharing similar social values and principles continues to be a key factor for millennials when choosing an organization for their financial needs. Fraternals, therefore, remain an attractive model due to their important role in a community.
We also have seen evidence of a direct correlation between the absence of modern technology and effective marketing tools with a decline in membership. Therefore, technological modernization is key to not only success, but survival. Several large fraternals successfully have modernized their business operations and are seeing notable membership growth.
Consulting firms like mine can play an imperative role in achieving successful business modernization, especially for organizations with limited resources. For instance, on top of traditional actuarial services, my company assists with marketing and distribution channel development, financial forecast and strategic planning, administrative systems support and process streamlining, just to name a few. These all can be placed under an umbrella of the business modernization process. Therefore, it is important for senior management of a fraternal benefit society to engage its actuarial experts on these topics, even if it may seem nonactuarial in nature.
You took a break from the actuarial career path and started your own business. Tell me more.
Right after I completed my actuarial exams, during the time when my only responsibility was taking care of my cat (joking), a good friend convinced me to join him in his endeavor to start a moving company. I invested all my attention to establish an operation that, with time, could be run with minimum supervision. Then I intended to come back to my primary profession. Typically, that first entrepreneurial experience does not pay off financially, but it serves as valuable education for future endeavors. This was the case for me.
About 18 months later, I sold the moving company and returned to the actuarial field. Around the same time, I helped my wife (then-girlfriend) and her sister open a physical medicine and rehabilitation center. I am proud of what these women and their team have accomplished in four years. The center won a Top Choice Award in 2020 and 2021, and they currently are in the process of expanding to a larger premises.
What are some daily rituals or habits that shaped who you are today?
Nothing in particular from my daily routine has shaped me. Rather, my somewhat uncommon life experiences—adjusting to and living in vastly different cultures—have made me who I am today.
What drives you?
My daughter, Teia, drives me forward (and drives me nuts sometimes!). Someday, I’d like her to genuinely say, “Hey, my dad is so cool, and I’d like to beat him in what he accomplished!” Other than that, I am motivated to continually challenge myself day in and day out, within and outside of the actuarial profession.
What are your goals for the next five to seven years?
Professionally, I want to become a partner in my company and potentially obtain a CFA designation. On the personal side, I want to add a sibling for Teia to our family, and I have a few motorcycles in my garage that I would love to have more time to ride.
What are your two core values?
First, do not do anything to anyone that you would not want them to do to you. Second, no matter what, keep setting goals and keep moving forward.
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.
Copyright © 2022 by the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois.