Wim Els served the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) with distinction from 1 June 1996 until his untimely death on 24 May 2021. Through this time, he showed an unyielding passion to serving the Society and the profession. He served all members of the Society – from the most venerated Fellow to the most junior struggling student – with equal respect. In addition, he actively worked to position ASSA on the global actuarial stage.
Through his work with the Actuarial Society Academy (ASA) and the Actuarial Society Education Trust (ASET), Wim was able to combine his passion for the transformation of both ASSA and South Africa with his commitment to serving ASSA and its members.
As a living tribute to Wim, we appeal to all members of ASSA, their employers, the broader
international actuarial community, and everyone else to contribute to the Wim Els Diversity
Fund. The funds raised will be used to grow Wim’s legacy on a sustainable basis.
ACTUARIAL SOCIETY ACADEMY (ASA)
ASA was established in 2015 with the goal of empowering disadvantaged actuarial students to succeed in their exams and their careers. Working actuarial students from different
backgrounds experienced significant differences in exam success and, consequently, career prospects despite most having passed through accredited university actuarial degree programmes.
ASA was established to bridge these gaps.ASA initially focused on providing subject-specific support to help students pass specific subjects. This approach met with mixed results but highlighted the need for broader support aimed at growing the confidence of students and their underlying workplace skills. Under Wim’s leadership, ASA has offered a wide range of courses, lectures, workshops, and individual support initiatives. In addition to subject-specific support, ASA offers a wide range of psycho-social and life skill training, broader exam preparedness training, motivational seminars, and mentoring.
The focus has broadened from helping students pass exams to transforming the profession through helping them thrive in all aspects of their lives.
ASA was established on the “fail fast, fail often” principle that allowed Wim to continuously test, modify and replace programmes with the sole objective of finding interventions that would provide the best possible support to students.
Where possible and appropriate ASA programme have been provided at no or very low cost to the participants – with funding coming primarily from ASSA subscriptions and operations aided by some sponsorships and occasional grants from SETA’s.
ASA aspires not only to continue this work but also to intensify efforts and look for opportunities to provide wider support for students facing significant financial and other challenges by raising additional funding through the Wim Els Memorial Fund.
ACTUARIAL SOCIETY EDUCATION TRUST(ASET)
ASET was established after the 2012 ASSA convention where Professor Brian O’Connor, then rector of UWC, showed that more than 80% of students studying mathematics at all South African universities were not university ready for mathematics.
This led to high dropout rates and stunted career aspirations. Wim played a leading role in the establishment of ASET through which ASSA members could contribute to helping the country solve this difficult challenge. However, Wim’s involvement significantly predates the ASET as he played a leading role in the Actuaries on the Move programme that commenced in 2001 (sponsored by Metropolitan) and in other ASSA initiatives aimed
at supporting the development of mathematics skills amongst school pupils. A schoolteacher by training, Wim showed a willingness and enthusiasm to engage directly with the children and provide whatever support he could to assist them.
ASET has focused on raising funds to supply high-quality resources sourced to underprivileged schools. Donations have come from corporations as well as individual ASSA members. Additional funding will allow ASET to expand and diversify its programmes to make a greater impact in the poorest communities.