An Alumnus that gives back in one way or another helps bright and academically talented learners from underprivileged backgrounds access university education and SAADP support they so desperately need to succeed. SAADP declares such Alumnus an ‘Alumnus of the Season.’
Thandanani Mbhele: The SAADP Alumnus of the Season
Besides being an active member of the SAADP Audit and Human Resources Committee, Thandanani also contributes financially into the students’ bursaries. It is due to such dedication that SAADP declares Thandanani, an Alumnus of the Season.
Born and raised in uMlaza (otherwise known as uMlazi), a township located on the south-west of eThekwini, KwaZulu Natal, Thandanani Mbhele values his origins. After matriculating at Kingsway High School, Amanzimtoti, south of eThekwini, Thandanani enrolled at the University of KwaZulu Natal for first year in Actuarial Science. Later he moved to do second year in Actuarial Science at the University of the Witwatersrand. He was however, advised to repeat some of the courses to be in line with the Wits’ curriculum.
Becoming a member of the SAADP Family
Thandanani saw a SAADP poster at the University of KwaZulu Natal and thought it would be a great opportunity to finance his studies. “The funding opportunity turned out to be way more than just funding,” he says. “Having someone to talk to on campus when you are far from home helped me through some tough university lessons. I also made friends who were part of SAADP family, and to this day, some of my closest friends are SAADP alumni,” he explains.
Mr Moses Mkhize, the SAADP Programme Manager at Wits describes Thandanani as a humble gentleman with so much love for people and education. “He had great sense of altruism and he was the first to participate in the SAADP Actuarial Science Information Session,” Mkhize recalls. SAADP organises annual Actuarial Science Information Sessions where qualified Alumni share their real-life stories with SAADP supported students.
Finding his first job
Thandanani successfully completed his Bsc. Degree in Actuarial Science (undergraduate) and progressed to do Honours and then exited the University of the Witwatersrand.
“My first job was at Alexander Forbes in the Pensions Team. It was great because there were several other colleagues I had studied with at Wits and even SAADP alumni from UCT. This made the transition into the work environment a pretty smooth experience,” he recalls.
“I then moved to Guardrisk Insurance to obtain some non-life Insurance exposure. This was another smooth change of things because I was still in the same building with some former colleagues as Guardrisk was part of Alexander Forbes at the time,” he continues.
Later, Thandanani moved to Munich-re where he is currently employed as a Financial Re-Insurance Actuary in the Financially Motivated Reinsurance Team. He says this move has been somewhat a bigger transition into a new area of expertise. “There is a lot of enjoyment I obtain from learning new things and figuring them out – it’s been exciting times,” he explains.
Thandanani continued to write the outstanding Professional Board Exams with the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) and subsequently qualified as a Fellow Actuary.
A word of advice to current Actuarial Science students
When asked to give a word of advice to current students, he said students must find out what works for them and stick to it (like knowing when the best time is to study). He says students must figure out why they want/need to qualify, and once they figure that out, then it is all the motivation they need.
He also had few advices for high school learners who aspire to become actuaries one day. He advises that learners must do their research as far as they can and shares the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s website link which has some information that might help: https://www.actuarialsociety.org.za/becoming-an-actuary/. He says learners must find someone who may know an actuary and ask if they can pass on some questions for them. “Most actuaries are willing to help, just give them enough time to respond,” he says.
In his conclusion, Thandanani says Actuarial Science is not an easy course, but learners can make things easier for themselves by working hard and performing well in university. “The foundation you build there will determine how quickly you qualify,” he concludes.
The South African Actuaries Development Programme continues to shape the futures of aspiring black actuaries in South Africa. Through our sponsors, we pride ourselves for having played a role in supporting the development of many young people like Thandanani in South Africa.