Have you ever wondered how insurance companies come up with the pricing of policies? Have you thought that they were all just made up randomly? You probably aren’t the only one, but it actually is a series of hard work, number crunching and careful analysis performed by an actuary and that is the job of Eric Brosius, a 1977 graduate of Penn State University and now the Senior Vice President and Corporate Actuary for Liberty Mutual Group. Eric describes his role of an actuary as an “insurance engineer” and agrees with its consistent spot in CNN’s Top 100 jobs.
Eric attended the Ogontz (Abington) campus for one year before transferring up to University Park. He explained that the transition was made a lot easier because of his time at Ogontz. He started at Penn State when he was just 16 years old, so being able to learn to succeed in college was important. He explained that when you begin college you need to deal with two main things; a.) academic expectations and b.) living on your own. It was extremely beneficial to him to work on adjusting to the academic expectations of being a self-motivator and planning for yourself, first, and then deal with adjusting to living on yourown, second. He actually feels he was at more of an advantage from having attended Penn State Abington when he transferred up to University Park a year later.
After graduating from Penn State, Eric received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and then went on to teach math at M.I.T and Wellesley College for 8 years. In teaching, he quickly saw that when it came to success it was not always about intelligence but instead who gave up and who sought out help. He realized that those who worked hard and asked for help were the ones that were successful.
Eventually he decided that teaching wasn’t for him because he wanted to have more interaction with people; he loved the students but when he wasn’t in the classroom he was alone researching. You may be surprised that he wanted to work with people yet he chose being an actuary. He says that being an actuary you actually need to be able to work really well with others especially when you must communicate and explain your decisions.
13 years out of college he took the chance at finding a job as an actuary. Liberty Mutual was one of the few companies that gave him a chance and it paid off. He says that he was able to work his way up to Senior Vice President because he not only had the technical skills but was always able to ask the question, “Will this decision help the business succeed?” on a daily basis. He also used the skills that he learned at Penn State to help him get there.
He says if you work in college to develop skills it will pay off. If you think that that once you graduate you are going to stop learning then you don’t have the right mindset. The most important advice that Eric gives is “In college, don’t learn things, learn to learn.” You aren’t going to remember the exact details of everything that you studied but the skills you learn in college are going to be useful 35 years from now, such as the ability to motivate yourself, deal with uncertainty, learn new things, and organize all of your responsibilities. Eric learned calculus, he studied calculus, he taught calculus, but he now he only uses it every couple of months but the organizational and other skills he learned in college he uses every single day.
Eric explains that you shouldn’t be threatened by change. We live in a world where most times you can’t envision the job that you will be doing because it hasn’t been created yet so if you acquire the ability to learn things quickly you are setting yourself up for success.