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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Careers: Finding and developing actuarial talent

Effective recruitment needs to be considered in the context of a complete resourcing strategy. The specialist skills of a non-life actuary take many years to acquire, and the demand for non-life actuarial services across Europe are ever increasing. This presents specific resourcing challenges for an organisation like QBE with a substantial actuarial department, where it is vital to have in place a source of suitably qualified and experienced staff.

To meet this challenge, we seek to resource our actuarial team by continuous review of our capabilities against current and, equally importantly, known future demand. This enables us to tailor our recruitment needs in a more planned and productive fashion that is entirely supportive to the existing team. When it comes to recruitment, few management activities are more critical than engaging the right people who will become competent, motivated and successful employees of our actuarial team.

Underpinning this broad resourcing strategy is a structured career development programme and a strong focus on retention management. Our recently launched Actuarial Academy develops student actuaries through a structured career path and gives a broad and rounded education beyond that of the examinations and standard study.

Established in early 2009, the academy allows both functional skills and business knowledge to be spread more widely across the actuarial team. The academy is designed to mirror the model applied by many actuarial consultancies, where students will work in a variety of different teams. Students rotate across different technical functions within the non-life actuarial area.

Equally importantly, programme participants can also expect to gain an in-depth understanding of several different business portfolios by spending at least two years as part of actuarial client teams from a choice of aviation, casualty, marine and energy, motor, property, reinsurance and specialty divisions.

Programme participants meet on a regular basis for ’lunch and learn’ sessions that focus on the technical issues that they encounter in their studies and practical work experience. The cross-functional practical experience is designed to complement the Institute of Actuaries’ study schedule.

Managing a structured career development programme is one aspect in tackling the resourcing challenge. However, with demand for actuaries high and, against a background of full employment in recent years, it has sometimes been difficult to find the best talent. The response of QBE’s actuarial function has been to focus on staff retention, given that we already have a high-calibre talent pool.

QBE’s actuarial department is developing and implementing a range of retention strategies, including financial and non-financial incentives, to achieve our resourcing goals. We feel that the key to retaining strong, skilled and motivated employees is to be flexible in our approach and to incorporate employee needs. Placing an emphasis on the importance of job satisfaction as an important differentiator between employers is key to success in recruiting and retaining actuarial staff.

A key part of enhancing job satisfaction is to develop our training capabilities to help existing employees become more effective in their roles by improving, updating and refining their knowledge and skills. This encompasses a range of activities including involvement in both actuarial and non-actuarial projects, attendance at internal and external training courses, conferences, seminars, work shadowing, study mentoring and individual coaching.

We use coaching to support individuals to meet current and future opportunities, and identify core competencies to improve motivation and development of our more senior staff. Training extends well beyond the technical with particular attention on client-handling skills, communication and planning. These soft skills are as vital to the success of in-house actuaries as they are to consultancies.

Within a performance management framework, individuals are empowered to self manage their own learning and training plans. These plans are set within a consistent framework of agreeing objectives and performance standards across the business.

Effective career development and training offer benefits beyond those specific to the individual, adding to the organisation as a whole and, ultimately, contributing to the achievement of business objectives.

Philip Dodridge is chief risk officer for QBE European Operations