Indiana State University Newsroom

All in an actuary's work

August 30, 2010

An Indiana State University student's summer internship is having a significant impact on the bottom line of a major U.S. insurance company.

Kali Diethrich, an ISU senior from Terre Haute majoring in insurance and risk management, spent the summer working in the corporate headquarters of Allstate Corp. in Northbrook, Ill. There, it was her responsibility to determine insurance product pricing for a six-state region of the United States.

Her progression from student to professional has been a calculated process, and her careful planning and preparation has allowed her to undertake the sort of work most won't encounter until after graduation.

"I went to school thinking I wanted to do actuarial and I knew that if I didn't at least try actuarial I would always question would I enjoy that more," she said.

If only she had an easier time getting people to understand what an actuary is.

Actuarial science - the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in the insurance and finance industries - is an unfamiliar field to many. While there are a few schools that offer programs of study in actuarial science, ISU is not one of them.

Diethrich worked around that through her selection of courses - doubling up on mathematics and statistics - in order to prepare for the career she hopes to enter.

As one of only 18 students selected from a pool of more than 300 to work this summer in the actuary pricing department of Allstate, Diethrich's plan appears to be working.

Enoch Hill, the internship program training unit manager and Diethrich's immediate supervisor, said she and her colleagues carry some heavy responsibility.

"If we're not priced right our company will go out of business," he said. "So even in my first year or two here, I was doing pricing changes that earned more than $10 million for our company. And it was overwhelming the responsibility, but it was also pretty cool to be able to do something that would affect a company that much."
While the expectation for the Allstate actuary intern is high, the payoff is worthwhile, Hill said, because the majority of the company's new actuary hires come from the internship training program.

"We feel very comfortable if someone's gone through our internship, and we thought they did a good job, that they will be someone we would appreciate giving a new hire offer," he said. "We've been really impressed with our interns this summer, all of them, including Kali. We invest a lot into our recruiting program so we expect the best."

Allstate's demand for superior student interns like Diethrich is imperative to the business, Allstate senior actuary Jim Rowland said. Without experienced and superior talent, their company wouldn't succeed.

"The financial system doesn't operate the way it needs to operate without actuarial input," he said. "Actuaries are the individuals who look at the data that the company has to determine the appropriate prices that the company should charge in order to provide protection and at the same time earn an acceptable return for the company.

"If the actuaries are wrong in that effort, it has serious implications for the company and the policy holders."

But impressing her superiors at Allstate isn't enough. If Diethrich hopes to land a position as an actuary after graduation, she'll have to complete a series of five tests to gain the level of certification Allstate expects of their employees.

As Diethrich returns to ISU this fall to complete her final year of undergraduate study, her primary focus will be passing tests.

"My actuarial exams will be my number one priority," she said. "Ideally my goal is to have two done by the time I graduate."

With a 2009 summer internship completed in commercial brokerage and now the experience of actuary work under her belt, Diethrich is optimistic about her future. She feels as though she is well-prepared to consider careers in both fields.

"I always thought I had an idea of what actuaries do," she said. "Getting to see that I actually really enjoy this work and this is something that I could see myself doing for a career, I think that's the biggest and most exciting thing for me."

Writer and contact: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of Media Relations, Indiana State University Communications and Marketing, or 812-237-3790.


ISU senior Kali Diethrich stands in front of the headquarters of Allstate in Northbrook, Ill. where she worked as an intern during the summer (ISU Photo/Kara Berchem).

Diethrich defends her work through her presentation of an indication - an analysis of what Allstate must do to price adequately in order to cover future losses, claims and expenses.