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Drake junior is youngest person to ever earn top actuarial designation

September 4, 2015
Roy Ju

Roy Ju, a junior Finance major, is on track to graduate after only three years at Drake University and has accepted a full-time actuarial position with The Principal Financial Group.

Roy Ju, a 20-year-old junior at Drake University, is the youngest person ever to receive the Society of Actuaries’ top professional designation.

Ju, a native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, was named a Fellow of Society of Actuaries (FSA) by SOA President Errol Cramer on August 26. The society, which was founded in 1949, currently has more than 15,900 Fellows around the world; in the United States, the average age for a candidate to complete the FSA track is 31 years old.

Ju completed an extensive series of exams, electronic courses, professional seminars, and other academic requirements in order to earn the designation, which is the highest professional designation in the actuarial field. He credits Drake, as well as an internship at The Principal Financial Group®, for his success.

"In all honesty when I found out that I was the youngest do to it, it really made me appreciative," Ju told The Des Moines Register. "I consider this a long journey, but it was a rewarding journey in which I received a lot of support along the way."

He began the actuarial exam process during his junior year in high school, passed the final preliminary exam during the winter of his first year at Drake, and completed three more essay-based tests by the end of the spring 2015 semester. That rapid pace allowed him to finish the FSA track ahead of Andrew Lin, who made headlines in 2009 when he finished his exams 17 days before his 21st birthday.

You’d expect years of rigorous exam preparation to have included lots of stressful cram sessions, but Ju says he didn’t spend a lot of time studying for specific tests.

“I focused on developing a foundational understanding of the material that would provide me with the tools to address a wide variety of exam questions,” he said in a Q&A with the Society of Actuaries.

And despite what you might expect, Ju is not majoring in Actuarial Science. Instead, he’s pursuing a degree in Finance—an area of deep personal and professional interest since the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08. He also plans to minor in Economics.

To a young man who also dabbles in Mandarin Chinese, higher education is an opportunity to expand his breadth of knowledge. When he first met Terri Vaughan, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration, Vaughan was struck by Ju’s depth of knowledge in insurance regulation—her area of professional expertise.

“He was unusually knowledgeable for a man of his age,” Vaughan said. “Clearly he is someone who does a lot of reading, on a great deal of issues, outside of his assigned coursework and exams. I suspect he had taken the time to read up on my area of expertise."

He revels in having made friends and acquaintances from around the world while at Drake, as well as having joined several student-led business organizations.

Perhaps most importantly—in terms of his immediate future—his time at Drake has helped him net an internship at a local Fortune 500 company.

He has been employed as an assistant actuarial analyst at The Principal Financial Group® since February 2014, working full-time hours over the summers and approximately 20-25 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters at Drake. He has worked within The Principal’s retirement, life insurance, and international divisions performing modeling, financial reporting, and risk management work.

His passion and eclectic spirit has captured the attention of Larry Zimpleman, chairman of The Principal’s Board of Directors and member of Drake’s Board of Trustees. They met shortly after Ju set foot on Drake’s campus.

“Roy has a high level of natural curiosity about many things—not just math or actuarial science,” said Zimpleman, a two-time Drake alumnus. “He gives his best effort in everything he does—sports, volunteer activities, academics, and beyond. There is no doubt that Roy will make a real difference in the future, both personally and professionally.”

Ju has accepted a full-time position as actuarial analyst at The Principal following his graduation from Drake. He expects to earn his degree in spring 2016, after only three years at the university.

“These internship experiences have given me valuable opportunities to perform meaningful actuarial work, work effectively within a team, and think strategically about business solutions,” he said. “I can’t overemphasize how critical these experiences have been for my growth and learning."

In his spare time—though it’s hard to imagine him having any—Ju is president and vice president, respectively, of Drake Investment Club and Drake International Traders of Iowa.

Ju also serves as a mentor to talented high school students within the Des Moines Public School District through the STEM Explorers program, which provides a pipeline to higher education and employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Drake provides so many unique opportunities and resources for its students beyond exceptional classroom learning,” Ju said. “Drake will prepare you for success in your career, no matter what your ambitions are."

Center for Actuarial Excellence

While Ju now holds a singular place in the SOA’s membership, Drake also holds a rare and distinguished designation from the society.

Drake is one of 16 colleges and universities in the United States and 26 in the world to hold the Center for Actuarial Excellence designation from the SOA.

“The CAE designation is an indication that we are part of an elite set of actuarial science programs,” said Vaughan. “Our [actuarial] exam passage rates are among the best in the country and we have successful alumni, holding senior positions, all around the world."

Every undergraduate student within Drake University’s College of Business and Public Administration completes at least one professional work experience prior to graduation; 98.8 percent of the college’s bachelor degree recipients in 2013–2014 held full-time employment or had enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.

Drake was one of the original 12 colleges and universities to receive the Center for Actuarial Excellence designation in 2009. The renewable designation runs through December 2020.