Ianev '03 Uses Math Degree for Fast Track to Actuary Status

by Howard W. Hewitt

January 11, 2006

Bogdan Ianev ’03 spends a lot of time explaining what he does. The Wabash College math major and Bulgarian native is an Associate Actuary for Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

"I actually do that a lot," he acknowledged, with a laugh. "Nobody knows what the hell an actuary is."

Ianev attended Wabash with an eye on a computer science career but outstanding math skills and a few economics’ classes moved him toward business.

"I had a couple of internships in computer science and eventually took a few classes in economics," Ianev said. "I really liked the business aspects of using math on a daily basis as part of the world around us. I decided I wanted to apply it in that context."

But, Bogdan, what do you do?

"You look at probabilities (as an actuary)," Ianev explained. "You look at past experiences. You study how many times before certain events have happened. You see how many people have died within a certain time period or how many people have filed for an x-ray claim. Then based on prior experience, you try to estimate what future costs will be and how much the company can charge its customers. You want to charge them a fair amount and enough so the company is profitable."

Or to simplify even more, Ianev said he tracks probabilities and evaluates risk.

Ianev is not new to taking risks. He left Sofia, Bulgaria to come to America as a high school exchange student. A family in Indianapolis’ historic Irvington district would become his host family.

He attended inner-city Tech High School. "The people were friendly, and it was a good experience," he said. "There were some things I took part in at Tech that allowed me to meet some good people."

The tall and personable Ianev made friends quickly, joined the track team, and started to consider staying in the United States for college. Initially, he and his family had planned just the one-year exchange stay.

"My parents really liked the idea of me getting an American education but at the same time they really missed me," he said. "But the college was good; I got a good scholarship and at that point I was really interested in staying over here."

He was well-prepared for his Wabash success despite the fact neither of his parents had ever visited the states. He comes from a family that obviously valued education. Bogdan’s father is a gynecologist and his mother and stepfather are cardiologists. He had nine years of English in Bulgaria before stepping foot inside the USA.

Ianev had applied to MIT and was accepted at Rose Hulman. But he attended Honor Scholarship Weekend at Wabash, won a scholarship, and decided he really liked the campus after his visit.

He embraced the Wabash experience and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and earned distinction on his comprehensive exams.

"Bogdan was an outstanding mathematics student, earning the Carscallen Prize in Mathematics," said Associate Professor of Mathematics Peter Thompson. "He was very active in the department. He was not only a tutor but competed in several competitions for us and regularly submitted solutions to the Problem of the Fortnight.

"He was modest, fun, and friendly. He and the other math majors formed a close group."

Thompson’s assessment of modesty was proven when Ianev started the series of actuary examinations he recently completed. Ianev took the first exam in November of his junior year and passed the second exam just after graduation. The tests are graded on a 10-point scale. Ianev scored a perfect 10 on the first test, a rarity.

"The exams are difficult," said Thompson, who Ianev gives credit for helping him pass the tests. "The first few exams have tended to have pass rates in the 30-40 percent range."

Ianev started his career with CIGNA in Hartford, Conn., and then moved to Hoboken in the summer of 2005. Prudential bought CIGNA’s retirement division giving Ianev the chance to stay in Hartford or move to Hoboken. The Lambda Chi Alpha and Sphinx Club member chose to make the move and loves being just across the Hudson River from New York City.

"It’s a blast," he said. "It’s so much fun. It’s hard to manage your time so you can meet all the people you want to meet and go all the places you want to go."

And he is a young man who knows where he wants to go. Ianev said it’s a long career path but he’d love to become a major company’s chief financial officer.

Whether he returns to Europe or Bulgaria remains an uncertainty.

"With globalization and companies spreading all over the world, business and industry in Europe is growing," he said. "So whether I’m physically here or not, I most likely will get involved with business back home one way or the other. But, in the short term I see myself staying here."

The decision to come to the USA, and more specifically Wabash College, has given him a great career. "Wabash taught me how to think and be critical," he said. "People argue with each other there all the time and it’s a good learning experience. For me college wasn’t so much about what I learned, but I learned how to learn so fast. I faced all kinds of subjects I’d never taken before like theatre and psychology. And yet people engage you in class and make it interesting and you learn. Even if you’re not interested in the subject you learn how to approach it and become interested and learn about it — that’s what makes Wabash special."

Hewitt is Wabash College's Director of New Media/Web Editor.

In photo: At top, Ianev spent a lot of time with Tech High School friends at Ellenberger Park in historic Irvington.


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