Active Roles and Success of Science & Technology Talent (Keio University)

On October 25 (Wed.), 2017, a special lecture on introduction to science and technology was given by an executive of AXA Direct at Keio University’s Hiyoshi Campus to some 250 first-year students at the Faculty of Science and Technology.

The following is an excerpt from the lecture.

AXA General Insurance actively uses the Internet and smartphones as tools for its business, and therefore we are focusing on securing talented individuals with a science background, such as actuaries and data scientists. For the past several years, we have actively accepted interns from graduate schools and have hired several brilliant young talents from among them every year.

Typical job areas for talented scientists in the financial industry

In the financial industry, areas in which talented scientists play key roles include the asset management, quantitative, actuarial and system sectors. Recently, positions related to fintech and big data utilization have been on the increase.

Typical science skills in demand in the financial industry are primarily probability, statistics, programming, artificial intelligence and machine learning. In addition, skills related to big data, cloud infrastructure building and data engineering are also essential, along with actuarial and financial engineering.

One of the most common science job areas encompasses system engineers, software engineers and programmers. Demand for talent in system engineering is likewise huge in financial institutions. Going forward, skills related to cloud computing and business applications are expected to be in high demand.

Secondly, quants are in demand. A quantitative analyst leverages financial engineering expertise to analyze and forecast financial market trends or corporate performance, as well as to develop or design investment strategies and financial products. Although decisions on asset management and trading have traditionally been made by humans, humans are being replaced by AI. Yet since it is humans that create core logic, a certain level of demand for science talent does exist in that area.

Thirdly, data scientists are now in greatest demand. Their roles are to leverage statistics, computer science and data analysis to structure and sort enormous amounts of raw data and derive value from it. In the future, with the development of IT technology and increase in the volume of data accumulated, the demand for data scientists will undoubtedly grow in financial institutions as in other fields.

Lastly, actuaries support insurance and pension firms in product development, asset management and risk management, utilizing their math and statistical skills. Tasks assigned to actuaries in insurance companies are so wide-ranging that some actuaries are engaged in accounting and finance, marketing and strategy development, in addition to their primary functions of product development, asset management and risk management.

Pursue differentiation to be successful in private companies

そCan those with scientific talent advance in financial institutions in the first place? I did some research and found out that presidents of leading Japanese financial institutions are mostly humanities majors.

Note that, however, the number of companies that require data scientists and people able to build cloud infrastructure is increasing. In particular, business models for Internet-based banking and securities companies as well as direct insurers are closely related to IT technologies. Therefore, I believe that people with skills and expertise in these areas will be well placed to get on a successful career path at financial institutions.

The word “success” may signify a different goal for each person, whether to rise to the management level or to be a specialist in a certain area. If you are seeking to move to a top management position, it is a prerequisite that you make contributions to the company and be recognized within the organization. You may be inclined to say, “I am a specialist in this area, so I will only do this job. I don’t care about the company’s business performance.” Such an attitude, however, will be frowned upon at a business-oriented company. If you intend to rise to the top, you need to be able to manage people and communicate effectively. If you want to specialize in a certain field, it is best to remain a researcher or in academia. Although business corporations do employ researchers, they will eventually pull the plug on research projects that won’t produce any returns.

In order for talented scientists to succeed in a corporation, you may have to think about how to differentiate yourself from others. I myself studied for 10 years to obtain my actuary qualification. Then I joined a foreign-capital company after turning 30 to master English speaking skills. Currently I am in charge of corporate management. So, I have three differentiators. It is crucial to hone your value and areas of specialty to differentiate yourself.

It is important to keep updating your resume with your selling points even after joining a company. I hope today’s lecture will be instrumental to your career decisions.