At Blue Shield of California, we’re always on the lookout for skilled actuarial analysts to join our team. To help shed some light on this role, what it looks like to join the Actuarial team at Blue Shield, and provide some hiring tips for aspiring actuaries, we spoke with one of our actuarial managers, Joe Sabo, to share his perspective.   

Joe recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at Blue Shield. Having started as an entry-level actuarial analyst, he now manages the Actuarial Pricing for the Small Group line of business.  

In addition to his actuarial work, Joe co-leads a sub-team at Blue Shield focused on identifying and recruiting the next wave of actuarial talent. His sub-team is responsible for hiring actuarial interns, holding informational sessions at universities, attending career fairs, and leading workshops where they help students better understand the actuarial career path, build their resumes, and practice interviewing.  

It’s been fulfilling to grow my career at Blue Shield and be able to share the company’s mission, culture, and commitment to improving the healthcare system with others. Providing opportunities for the next generation and giving back to the actuarial community has been extremely gratifying.”

-Joe Sabo

Joe Sabo Greece JPEG
Joe Sabo and his wife in Greece
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could you give us some insight into your current role? 

I work in Actuarial Pricing, so my job is to forecast our future costs and set the prices of our members’ premiums, so that we cover these costs almost exactly. The challenge is that we must do this one to two years in advance, which requires us to stay on top of the latest emerging market and competitor trends. Right now, we’re pricing our 2025 costs, but we obviously don’t know what will happen between now and then. Regulations could, and often, change, and new innovations frequently launch in the market that influence member behavior. Anything can change, really. When we were sitting here 4 years ago, we didn’t realize that a global pandemic was looming around the corner. At the time, trying to navigate and forecast the unknown was stressful, but looking back, these were exciting times to be an actuary!

What advice do you have for someone who is just starting or switching their career into the actuarial field?

I always recommend that prospective actuaries study for and take one of the actuarial exams. We require all candidates to have already passed at least one exam to be considered for an entry-level actuarial analyst role. To become a credentialed actuary, you will need to pass all required exams. These exams require intensive studying, and the discipline to study consistently becomes a part of life for actuarial analysts for many years. Since there are several exams, it can take a minimum of four to six years (oftentimes more) before becoming fully credentialed.

What skills do actuaries need to work at Blue Shield, and are there any skill gaps you’re seeing that someone might be able to fill or contribute toward?

Actuaries need to be well-versed in math and possess strong financial acumen, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, creativity, and natural curiosity. The areas where I see actuarial analysts struggle the most are in building a creative and curious mindset. Challenging the status quo, breaking away from “the way things have always been done” to develop a creative solution, and always thinking ahead to the next step are traits I’ve noticed in successful actuaries who contribute the most value to the company.

Consistently getting to the “why” is also crucial. For analysts, the work is often neck-deep in data and technical analysis, and it may not be clear how the work ultimately fits into Blue Shield’s mission and strategy. Those who can connect their work to the broader strategy and bigger picture will be those who thrive the most.

What challenges will new actuarial analysts at Blue Shield face?

As an actuarial analyst, the biggest challenge will be balancing exam progress, staying on top of day-to-day work, and developing a deeper understanding of the business. Insurance is incredibly complex, and the learning curve can be very steep. On top of that, each actuarial exam can require 3-6 months of intensive studying, most of which is done before and/or after work and requires significant discipline. Fortunately, Blue Shield provides analysts with generous on-the-job study support through the Actuarial Study Program, which provides actuaries with paid study time during their workday and covers the cost of their exams and study materials.

What does career growth and development look like for an actuary?

Career growth comes in many forms within the actuarial field. Actuarial is very niche, but it’s also a space where anyone can realize their career objectives at their own pace. Some actuaries love building large-scale financial models to analyze data. Performing technical analysis is what initially drew them to the career, and they don’t have an interest in taking on the administrative responsibilities that come with moving into a management position. And that’s perfectly fine! We need principal analysts who can synthesize data at a very strong level. For those who aspire to move into actuarial management, they will first need to progress through the analyst ranks to develop a technical backbone before moving into a management position where they oversee a team of analysts.

The Actuarial department also offers formal rotation opportunities to further the career development for our actuaries. Rotations are often encouraged, and they allow analysts to move to different actuarial teams on a permanent basis. This gives analysts a broader perspective of the work they’re doing and allows for the development of new skills.

When I started my career at Blue Shield, I worked for the Corporate Reserving team. After a few years (and many monthly close cycles!), I became interested in seeing other parts of the business. I was able to rotate to an Actuarial Pricing team, and that’s where I’ve decided to stay, as I’ve found the work to perfectly align with my skillset and interests.

Virtual Workshop
Joe and sub-team colleagues, Elizabeth Diaz and Taylor Grimes, conducting a virtual workshop with university students from across the state.

Who will actuaries interact with on a typical day, and what will make them happy? 

This will depend on the specific role and team. Actuarial input is valued across the organization, so actuaries can expect to work closely with Sales, Finance, Product Development, Legal, Accounting, Provider Network Management, Marketing, and even Claims Operations. We also have actuaries who interact externally with hospital providers to negotiate contracts as well as outside vendors and consultants.  

Actuaries are problem solvers by nature, but we each have varying levels of interests and career objectives. I’ve found the most personal satisfaction in being able to drive high-level pricing strategies. Others thrive when they are building or automating technical financial models. The key is to identify the work that is most engaging and enjoyable, and openly communicate these interests with your manager. Taking advantage of rotational opportunities is another great way to explore and find the right role. Being a manager myself, my team’s well-being and overall engagement is my top priority because I know it will lead to their growth, and they will ultimately be able to contribute at a higher level. 

Actuarial Analyst Roles at Blue Shield of California