Actually speaking

In a short span of time, he switched three employers: Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), Global Trust Bank (GTB) and ICICI, before settling down at Birla Sun Life Insurance as its chief actuary.

He may be still young, but he has gathered good experience in all spheres of the life insurance business - drawing up start-up plans, designing and pricing a product and preparing a valuation report. He had also applied the life insurance techniques of embedded values and earned profits for an asset management company (AMC), whose name he refuses to divulge.

It was an interesting exercise - trying to apply this technique to an AMC - for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the average tenure of a mutual fund holding is much shorter than a life insurance policy. Secondly, there is a difficulty in estimating redemption of units by unit-holders. In life insurance, the exits, such as lapses and mortality, are by and large stable, can be estimated reasonably well and can be modelled, he says.

Spending two years at Birla Sun Life, where he launched products that were entirely different from the others in the market, Gopalakrishnan is again taking off - this time to Hong Kong. No, he is not quitting the job; he is deputed to Sun Life Financial, Hong Kong. A year later he will move to Canada, where Sun Life is headquartered, before returning to India.

Professionally, this is going to be a rewarding exercise for him. After a 13-year stint at LIC (1984-1997), where he had handled activities like underwriting and actuarial and software development, Gopalakrishnan spent his entire time in life insurance start-ups, developing business plans, designing products and pricing them. The Sun Life assignment focuses on working in different corporate actuarial areas like Canadian statutory valuation, embedded value, dynamic capital adequacy testing and expense analysis for various product lines, he says.

Now I have the opportunity to move to corporate actuarial. For instance, valuing a unit-linked product that has several options and riders calls for professional judgment on materiality of certain benefits and assumptions, and arriving at margins for adverse deviations, he says, almost making one flabbergasted with the technical nuances of actuarial science. And this is the same person who doesnt have any qualms in admitting that he hadnt heard of the word actuary till 1982.