Early days of 2017, when Kenya was looking forward to general elections, a young actuary would venture in a field that is not conventionally “actuarial”. Shruti Shah, after five years at Zamara (formerly Alexander Forbes East Africa), where she was involved in actuarial pensions consultancy, healthcare consulting and research & development, started Arama, a recreational and residential centre for senior members of the society.
“One thing that was apparent from my time in the pensions consultancy world, is that the mortality rate in the country and globally was improving rapidly thanks to hygiene, technological advancements and more awareness. People were growing older and living longer. I realised there is need for services in that industry,” she says.
It is a decision that, two years later, she does not regret. Not only does her involvement offer immense satisfaction, she is able to apply most of her skills garnered during her years in the actuarial field in the new line of work.
“I still use the skills I acquired in my previous professional years – qualitative and quantitative analyses, communication, logic, problem solving” she adds.
Arama, which opened its doors in July 2017, initially offered day services where seniors would engage in arts and crafts, exercises, yoga and games such as bingo, puzzles, chess and scrabble.
Later, they played host to some short-stay residents and in March 2019, they started receiving admissions for permanent residents. The journey has been an “eye-opener and has made me start thinking about ageing with a new perspective’, she adds.
Born and brought at in Nairobi, Shruti studied in Loreto Convent Msongari and Oshwal Secondary School where her passion for Mathematics was identified. She would pursue a Masters in Maths Operations Research Statistics and Economics (MMORSE) at the University of Warwick in England. She kickstarted her actuarial career at Punter Southall in London where she qualified as a Fellow of IFoA.
She moved back to Kenya where she got married and joined Zamara. She pursued her ST9 exam and qualified as a CERA.
By the time Shruti cleared her secondary studies, she was still unsure what she wanted to do in her professional life. But one thing was clear – she would never become an accountant.
“My dad is an accountant. It was the one thing I was willing never to pursue,” she jokingly says.
So, why would an actuary venture beyond financial services? “Why not?” she asks.
Shruti gives an analogy of accountants. “You will find them everywhere. They are comfortable in every industry they find themselves in. Why not actuaries?”
It is time actuaries looked beyond their traditional areas of practice, and venture outwards, she adds. “We need to break borders.”
Shruti strongly believes that the actuarial skills are powerful and versatile and actuaries should not shy away from using them in different ways and places.
At Arama, Shuti has appreciated the role pension savings and insurance plays once a person becomes old. “Most people take retirement savings for granted. At this age, it is very difficult to get an insurance cover. When you become old, you are always in need of post-retirement medical services, and other healthcare services.”
Does she miss her actuarial professional years? “Sure! Sometimes I miss the office life, and bouncing off ideas with colleagues and the actuarial jokes.”