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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Careers

  • ©iStock A profession fit for the futureCharles Cowling describes how the actuarial profession is moving forward, with recent initiatives at the IFoA helping to ensure it maintains its relevance and sustainability. 06 September 2018
  • August Headshots Routes to the topIn this second instalment of our 'routes to the top' series, Bradley Shearer speaks to more senior executives about their career paths, giving further practical professional advice to us all. 09 August 2018
  • ©iStock Drop the pressure for employeesJames Bennett looks at stress in actuarial work, and suggests ways that managers can nurture a low-stress environment among employees. 09 August 2018
  • Jules-Constantinou_DSF8975-©Peter-Searle.jpg Jules Constantinou - A true pioneerThe new IFoA president Jules Constantinou discusses the opportunities, threats and potential areas of development for the actuarial profession with Francisco Sebastian 12 July 2018
  • Head Shots Routes to the topIn the first instalment of our 'routes to the top' series, Bradley Shearer talks to four senior executives and managing directors about their career journeys, and shares their practical professional advice 12 July 2018
  • Credit: Shutterstock Microinsurance on a macro scaleWhy isn't microinsurance fulfilling its potential? Scott Swanay, April Li, Keith Lau and Tom Johansmeyer look at some of the challenges involved and how they can be overcome 07 September 2017
  • Supervised space for innovation testing Supervised space for innovation testingChristopher Woolard lifts the lid on the Financial Conduct Authority's regulatory sandbox, which allows firms to try out their innovative products and services in a live environment 07 September 2017
  • Take charge of your destiny Take charge of your own destinyYanum Venkatrathnam, chair of a panel discussion on career ownership at the IFoA Asia Conference, recalls how panelists John Chen, Mark Saunders and KaMan Wong all agreed that taking the initiative pays off 07 September 2017
  • A missing antidote to terrorism A missing antidote to terrorismDr Rachel Anne Carter and Dan Kaszeta explain how actuaries can assess the risk of terrorism and make decisions on cover 07 September 2017
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What does an actuary do?

Actuaries apply financial and statistical theories to solve real business problems. In effect, they use their skills in maths and statistics to create theoretical models of the world around them.

A typical business problem might involve analysing future financial events, especially when the amount or timing of a payment is uncertain. But it could also involve understanding something like the weather: assessing when and where devastating storms may hit can help predict risks, and their associated costs, for investments or insurance. So a lot of the work an actuary does might be thought of as risk management.

The skills you need
Understanding how businesses operate, and how legislation may affect them, is vital. But what really sets actuaries apart is their natural mathematical, economic and statistical awareness, and their ability to apply this to real situations in the financial world. The ability to communicate these difficult topics to non-specialists is also very important.

Main industry sectors
Actuaries' skills are in great demand throughout the financial sector, particularly in investment, insurance and pensions. Actuaries are also increasingly employed in risk management for large companies. However, actuarial consultancies are probably the biggest employers of actuaries in the UK.

Consultancies - offering advice on issues such as acquisitions, mergers and financing capital projects, and also on occupational pension schemes. 

Investment - involved in research and on the pricing and management of investments, particularly in mitigating risk, and often using their understanding of insurance or pension liabilities to manage the corresponding assets.

Insurance - providing a service to companies that need a huge range of numerical information investigated, analysed and explained; for example to create and price polices, or to ensure they have the money to cover claims.

Pensions - designing and advising on company pension schemes, especially placing a value on accumulated pension commitments.