Spotlight on Alumni
UKZN Bachelor of Business Science in Finance graduate, Ms Erin Bargate, has a penchant for travelling, raised funds for rhinos while running the London Marathon and plans to do the Durban Half Ironman event later this year. Bargate, who completed her master’s degree at Oxford University in England, is a trustee for the UKZN UK Trust.
UKZNdabaOnline’s Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer spoke to her on a variety of issues:
Q. You have quite an impressive list of accomplishments – ranging from education to sports. What achievement are you most proud of?
A. That’s a toss-up between qualifying as an actuary and getting my master’s from Oxford, but I think I would have to choose Oxford! I had dreamed of studying there for as long as I can remember, but it always seemed like an impossible dream.
I had to work extremely hard during my time at UKZN and I often stayed at home studying while my friends were out partying but all the hard work was definitely worth it – Oxford was a magical place to live and study!
Q. Where do you work now and what do you do there?
A. I’m an actuary at a specialist insurance company called Hiscox. I started out working in the London Market pricing team where I helped to decide premiums for the large unusual risks insured through Lloyd’s of London. I helped price insurance for a wide range of products including satellites, ships, airplanes, kidnap and ransom and large hospitals and law firms.
Hiscox isn’t your average insurance company – we cover everything from large sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup and Olympics, to priceless artwork. I now manage the Group Capital Model, where I help to quantify the risk faced by the company as a whole. This is to ensure the company will always have sufficient money to pay claims.
Q. The #FeesMustFall campaign made quite an impact on the South African Higher Education landscape. What do you think alumni can do to make a difference in the lives of current students?
A. I’d like to encourage all UKZN graduates to help future students by giving back to the Institution. Everyone who now has a job as a result of obtaining a UKZN degree has the power to change someone’s life by helping them to achieve a university degree. I’ve recently become a trustee of the UKZN UK Trust which uses donations from UK-based alumni to help fund needy students at UKZN.
Anyone interested can get more details and how to donate through: http://www.ukznuktrust.org/ South African based alumni should also check out the UKZN Foundation site at: https://www.ukznfoundation.org/home
Q. Your mother, Dr Karen Bargate, is a Lecturer in the School of Accounting at UKZN. What impact has she had on your life?
A. My mother instilled in me the importance of getting a good education from a very young age and she gave me the belief that I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. Both my parents did everything they could to help me achieve my goals. They also passed on their love of sport. The picture being used with this interview is of my mother and I at the World Triathlon Championships in London in 2013, where we both represented South Africa in our respective age-groups.
Q. What are you plans for the future?
A. I plan to continue working hard and progressing in my career. However, I’d like to spend more time doing sporting events now that most of my spare time is no longer taken up with studying for the actuarial exams!
I’ve ticked one of those events off my list by running the London Marathon last year, where I also raised £2,500 (R55 000) for Save the Rhino International.
The next thing on my list is the Durban Half-Ironman event in June this year. I’ll be coming back to Durban with my British boyfriend to do the race and my mother will join us in the event I would also love to do a full Ironman and the Cape Epic mountain bike race in the future.
Q You have a few degrees under your belt. What advice do you have for graduates?
A. Don’t underestimate the power of perseverance. When I was applying for scholarships to study at Oxford, I got rejected several times before one came through. Also, it sounds terribly clichéd but I’ve really learned that anything is possible with hard work and determination!
Q. Living in the UK gives you a great opportunity to travel. Which countries have you visited?
A. The UK is very conveniently located for European travel but having a South African passport does make this substantially more difficult as a Schengen visa is required for every trip! I did a big two month-trip around Europe before I started studying at Oxford but over the last few years I have actually spent quite lot of time in the United States.
I was very fortunate that as part of the Hiscox graduate scheme, I did a three-month secondment in our New York office. Living and working in Manhattan was an incredible experience – there were so many amazing things to do and the city has a great atmosphere. I have been back to visit quite often and I’ve also spent time exploring Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington DC.