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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Careers: Rising opportunities

While actuaries have remained in demand throughout the downturn, the need for specialist skills is at an all-time high. The main focus within the actuarial market last year, as expected, was around Solvency II, which is a fundamental review of the capital adequacy regime for the European insurance industry. With a deadline set for implementation of 1 November 2012, the demand across the UK for skilled actuarial professionals, particularly with experience in areas such as Solvency II, has never been higher.

While recruitment has increased, this doesn’t come without challenges as the requirement for these professionals exceeds the number of available candidates with the relevant experience. This, along with the tighter restrictions surrounding visas, has meant that companies who cannot source UK professionals are also struggling to acquire talented individuals from abroad. The actuarial market has always suffered from a skills shortage, thus making it candidate-driven, and Solvency II has only made the situation more acute.

With employers keen to hold on to their experts, there has been a significant rise in counter-offers, causing some employers to pay well above the market rate, either to retain or to attract actuaries. Some talented professionals have received counter-offers in excess of £25,000 to stay in their jobs. Average salaries in the City are now around £75,000 to £85,000, while senior actuaries or directors sit around the £120,000 to £160,000 mark. As employers find it difficult to recruit people with the right skills, the contract market has also grown substantially and rates for these professionals have also increased, with contract workers now able to earn as much as £1,500 per day.

Aside from the financial aspect, opting to work as a contractor can also have other benefits. Roles tend to be more project-based, therefore offering a broader range of exposure to a variety of organisations. As long as the projects are challenging and individuals have a stable work history, interim assignments can add value to an individual’s experience and CV, enhancing their long-term career prospects. However, in most cases it is not a nine-to-five job and many are required to work considerably longer hours.

While it is certainly a good time to be a contractor in terms of current job opportunities and the high rate of pay, it is difficult to judge how the implementation of Solvency II will impact the market post- 2012. Aside from the fact that there will be far fewer projects relating to Solvency II, processes should be streamlined following the changes, which may affect the demand for actuarial resource in the long term.

Along with Solvency II, enterprise risk management has also been an area that has grown, with a number of leading insurers setting up dedicated teams to support implementation and delivery of companies’ risk strategies. Risk is an area that has been prioritised as a result of the recession, with many businesses now prepared to invest more as every large corporate organisation has regulatory and compliance requirements to which they must adhere.

As 2011 progresses we expect enterprise risk management, along with Solvency II, to continue to be a focus for many employers. In addition, IFRS Phase II is an area that should generate more opportunities for actuaries. Companies will require skilled professionals to help them prepare and ensure systems are in place to deal with the changes that are due in 2013/14.

Due to a shortage of professionals with Solvency II experience, many employers are having to alter their recruitment strategy by offering these positions to actuaries with relatively little career experience, but who show willingness to learn and have an understanding of the issues. This has therefore provided individuals the chance to take up positions that, under normal circumstances, they would not have had access to. For those actuaries currently looking for a job, the market offers plenty of opportunities.

In order to further enhance career prospects, professionals lacking Solvency II experience should try to gain exposure internally, as this should give them a distinct advantage when looking for top jobs in the coming years. It is also important that candidates demonstrate commercial awareness and strong interpersonal and communication skills during interviews as professionals are now expected to have a greater input into a company’s operation. For those hoping to progress into a more senior role, volunteering for company-wide projects can provide exposure to senior management as well as offering valuable new perspectives on business.

Overall, the actuarial jobs market is buoyant and we certainly expect this to continue throughout 2011, as the date for the implementation of Solvency II grows nearer.

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Kevin Smith is an actuarial recruitment specialist at Hays