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Alumni Connections in the Actuarial Science Field
Brian M. Fernandes, ACAS, MAAA, ’91, director of actuarial services at Goodville Mutual Casualty Company, found a unique way to The Valley. His best friend’s mother was on a jury for a trial where an actuary testified about the future value of a person’s net worth. Knowing he enjoyed math and business, she suggested it to him as a potential career. After exploring the field, he eventually contacted LVC and spoke with the late Dr. Bryan Hearsey, chair and professor emeritus of actuarial science. Hearsey would become his advisor for all four years.
“I spoke with Dr. Hearsey, went for a visit, and it just felt right walking across campus. I didn’t have the first idea about what I was getting into career-wise but knew from a comfort standpoint The Valley was where I wanted to go. And for the record, my best friend’s mom still takes credit for pointing me in that direction,” he added with a laugh.
Fernandes joined Tau Kappa Epsilon, ran track, and served as a Resident Assistant for two years, but the time commitment of the major left room for little else.
“The course work was rigorous,” he noted. “And I was hardly the smartest kid in my class, so I had to outwork everyone else just to keep up. I easily spent 10 hours per day, seven days a week, in the library, which is hard to comprehend in hindsight. But I was determined, so I accepted it for what it was.”
His hard work paid off with two internships involving LVC connections.
“I spent the summer and winter after my sophomore year with Milliman & Robertson, where Jim Stoltzfus, FSA, MAAA, ’81 was my boss,” he said. “I then interned at Penn Mutual after my junior year, where there were four LVC graduates and two interns in the department.”
After graduation, Fernandes joined Reliance Insurance in Center City, Philadelphia.
“It was a great opportunity to connect with others around my age since they hired about six graduates each year. In some ways, we all grew up together. The bonds we created are still important to me and formed the basis for many friendships and connections I have to this day.”
Fernandes left Reliance in 1997 to pursue several opportunities and grow his skillset. This career experience led him to join Goodville as the company’s first credentialed actuary in the fall of 2019. He notes that Goodville already has several LVC connections. Blake Martin ’20 had just completed an internship the previous summer, while Martin’s department mentor was Tina Zimmerman ’97, actuarial analyst. Yet another colleague, J.B. Martin ’85, senior claims representative, has been with the company since 2003.
Since joining the company, Fernandes has taken the lead in growing the actuarial department.
“Tina and I developed our first-ever entry-level position to round out the staff, so I reached out to several area schools that advertise their actuarial programs to solicit résumés. We found several solid candidates, and although I am admittedly biased, Cam Niemeyer, ’22, interviewed best and showed the most interest in us. He made it a relatively easy choice in the end.”
“Besides being my alma mater, LVC made the process much easier than the other schools I spoke with,” he added. “I reached out to Dr. [Patrick] Brewer [director of actuarial science and associate professor of mathematical sciences]. All I had to do was send the job description and he spread the word and recommended his students contact me. The other schools required me to join a message board, make a campus presentation, attend a job fair, or all three to connect with their students and receive résumés. They didn’t help their students by making it difficult for prospective employers to recruit.”
Fernandes also shared advice for current students and alumni in the field.
“Relationships matter more than they might first appear. You can pass all the exams in record fashion, but if you don’t take the time to get to know your co-workers and forge those crucial bonds you will miss out on opportunities down the road. I have worked for five companies in my career. Aside from Reliance, who hired me out of school, every opportunity I’ve received has come about because I knew someone at the company, or someone put in a good word for me with a contact who did.”
Niemeyer was also unsure of a career path but, like Fernandes, loved the idea of combining math and business.
“While being recruited to LVC to play football, Coach Jack Beidler mentioned the college’s strong Actuarial Science Program,” he said. “I did a little research and figured it was a great opportunity I wouldn’t find at other schools.”
Niemeyer played football all four years and was named a team captain his senior year. It was Professor Brewer who connected him with Fernandes.
“Dr. Brewer was a great professor,” said Niemeyer. “He always made classes interesting and understandable and did a great job helping students with internships and career searches. Dr. [Will] Delavan [associate professor of economics] also was an excellent professor. He was a big reason I chose to double major in economics.”
Before Goodville, Niemeyer interned at The Benecon Group.
“I learned about the Benecon opportunity from Dr. Brewer and my teammate and friend, Kody Kegarise ’21, who had previously completed an internship there. I learned a lot there that I carried over into my senior year and then the start of my career.”