“Excellence is a habit” – UP actuary alumnus urges graduates to take initiative in their new careers

Posted on June 29, 2020

“We need to be at the forefront of the change we want to see – as young people, we must not shy away from the conversations that emerge at a political level,” says Amogelang Kgaladi (26), a University of Pretoria-trained actuary and now head of corporate actuarial function at FNB short-term.

“Each of us needs to identify how we can contribute towards making South Africa a better place, because the aggregation of all our initiatives, no matter how small, can amount to the change we want to see,” adds Kgaladi, who graduated from UP with a BSc degree in Actuarial and Financial Mathematics (cum laude) and an honours degree in Actuarial Sciences. “From tutoring high school students and mentorship to helping to establish vegetable gardens – these can all contribute towards a better society.”

When it comes to the early careers of young graduates, he has this to say: “Your career is not an individual sprint; there will be many individuals who will provide guidance and opportunities for you. Seek out individuals that have walked a similar path to you and ask questions; seek guidance from seasoned professionals.”

He also encourages new graduates to be inquisitive and to take initiative in their new professions. “Don’t be scared to ask questions, and remember, while a lot of things happen by mistake, excellence is not one of them. ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,’ according to Aristotle.”

Kgaladi would also like to see more cooperation between the older and younger generations in professional environments. “Through greater collaboration we will increasingly see innovative solutions emerge that can assist our country to move towards an increasingly implementation-driven society.”

He has seen this sort of collaboration in action, having played a leading role in establishing the processes and foundations for the corporate actuarial function at FNB. “To establish so many processes from the start is stimulating because it requires a lot of first-principle thought processes, and provides the opportunity to work in a highly innovative environment that places significant trust in young individuals.”

His role at FNB short-term involves performing valuations for policyholder liabilities; understanding how much capital is needed to withstand certain risks as a short-term insurance company, including events like hail and earthquakes; preparing budgets and forecasts; monitoring liquidity profiles; and ensuring the business has sufficient liquidity to meet its obligations. “I also do stress and scenario testing for the company in order to understand how resilient our balance sheet is to certain impacts, and am involved in several other strategic initiatives, such as discussions on product design.”

Kgaladi believes in continuously broadening his education and skill set, and is studying towards an MBA through Wits Business School. Thinking back to the start of his studies at UP he says, like most things, it was challenging in several ways, including from a financial perspective.

My tuition was going to place my parents under immense financial strain. Fortunately, I obtained a bursary from the South African Actuaries Development Programme in the second semester of my first year. This helped take care of my tuition, accommodation, books and meals, and provided me with an allowance.”

He adds that having graduated with both his undergraduate and honours qualifications from “such a reputable institution” as UP has propelled his career. “The rigorous actuarial training definitely helped speed up the time it took me to qualify as an actuary. I think it’s testament to the institution that so many of my honours classmates went on to qualify as actuaries in record time.”

- Author Primarashni Gower

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