Loyola University Chicago

Mathematics and Statistics

Matthew Willms

 Matthew Wilms, FCAS, MAAA
Senior Actuary
Liberty Mutual, Chicago IL

Matthew Wilms is a a Senior Actuary at Liberty Mutual in Chicago, IL. He is a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries. We did a Q&A with him, and below are a few of his experiences being an Actuary.

What do you do as an actuary at Liberty Mutual?

I currently manage actuaries, MBAs, PhD statisticians, and IT professionals which serve as analytics consultants for Liberty’s specialty insurance products worldwide.  My team specializes in identifying, developing, and implementing predictive models which aim to improve profitability and drive strategic growth.  While the end product varies from line to line, we commonly build GLMs that guide account pricing decisions or identify desirable risks and market niches.  Prior to this role, I have worked on pricing our large commercial accounts, profitability reporting, data system design, reinsurance optimization, and capital modeling.

How did your MATH/STAT degree prepare you for your career?

My degree laid the technical foundation that underlies most of the work I do.  At a high level, my math background gives me an analytical perspective that shapes the way I view business challenges.  More specifically, I rely heavily on my math education as I carry-out my day-to-day job responsibilities.  While the systems of equations and modeling algorithms involved are far too complicated to be solved by hand like you would in a math class (we use SAS and other software crunch the numbers), I use my math background to identify the best model structure and approach, choose the most appropriate distributions and assumptions, and interpret and validate output from the modeling process.

How has a degree from Loyola impacted your career?

The faculty at Loyola is extraordinary.  The small class sizes at Loyola allowed me to forged close relationships with several world-class professors. Some of those professors steered me toward the actuary profession and I still keep in touch with many of them.

Did you get a graduate degree? Do you think a graduate degree is necessary to be an actuary?

No, I do not hold a graduate degree.  Given the rigorous exam process, a graduate degree certainly not necessarily for an actuary.  Many of my colleagues have graduate degrees, but most of them earned their degrees prior to making a career change.  More education never hurts, but my advice to aspiring actuaries is to use that time to knock out actuarial exams.

What were your favorite math classes at Loyola? Which classes helped prepare you most for your career?

My favorite classes were applied statistics classes, like stochastic processes and modeling and simulation.  Regression analysis is very relevant for my current role.  Outside of the math department, I often draw from courses I took in computer programming, accounting, finance (both corporate finance and options pricing), and economics.

 What is your favorite thing about being an actuary?

My work is mentally challenging and that’s what keeps me engaged.  Also, the quality of life the profession affords is excellent (once you finish the exams).

 What advice would you give students pondering a minor or major in MATH/STATS?

Go for it.  We live in a world that is increasingly complicated and analytical.  Advances in data science are revolutionizing almost everything.  No matter what you want to do, a mathematics background will give you the technical foundation to analyze data and interpret the world around you.