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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries


In October 2006 Tanaka Business School opened its doors to the actuarial profession. Tanaka, the business school at Imperial College, London, added the MSc in Actuarial Finance to its list of MBA and MSc programmes, specifically targeting actuarial students in the early stages of qualification with the Actuarial Profession.

A break from tradition
Most qualified actuaries and students will be unfamiliar with the specifics of this course, knowing only of the traditional actuarial science degrees. This course is anything but traditional. Tanaka has recognised the need for modern actuaries to understand the language of finance and to provide more integrated solutions, and has taken pioneering steps in compiling a programme that meets the requirements of the profession, the students, and an advisory board of large actuarial employers.
This year’s intake of 30 actuarial students are employed by Hewitt Associates, Watson Wyatt, Mercer, Aon Consulting, and Friends Provident. They attend a full day of lectures and classes once a week for two academic years, replacing the traditional ‘study day’ offered by many employers. This study day is supplemented with time at home spent doing further reading, completing take-home assignments, and preparing for the regular class quizzes. The total time spent studying each week is broadly consistent with the traditional route.
Examinations make up 70% of the programme’s assessment, with the remainder represented by coursework. Emphasis is placed on acquiring knowledge and new skills, and on learning to apply these skills beyond the scope of the programme. The exams are viewed by the teaching staff as nothing other than a measure of ability to demonstrate these new skills. This approach differs greatly from the more traditional route to qualification, which sees students focusing their attention on the examinations.

Dr David McCarthy, the programme director, has worked closely with the Actuarial Profession to ensure that, subject to meeting the profession’s criteria, students passing the course will earn exemptions in CT2, CT7, CT8, CA1, CA3, and both ST subjects along with their MSc. These exemptions should be a particularly attractive proposition for students at the beginning of their careers, offering an accelerated route to qualification.
The actuarial practice course, taught in the first year of the programme, offers something previously unseen in actuarial education. The course comprises a series of lectures from experts in all areas of the profession, from the actuarial control cycle and defined benefit scheme investments to cashflow projections and risk management. Students have opportunities to acquire an insight into areas of actuarial practice that they do not see at work, which can only make for a more rounded education.
Hewitt Associates has provided 15 of the 30 students joining the programme this year. The majority of us joined the programme having completed one year of employment in the profession. Hewitt already offers a comprehensive study package to its actuarial students, but has shown support for this programme as an attractive alternative to self-study, giving us the information and support to choose freely between Tanaka and the traditional route.
I enrolled on this programme because I recognise the need for modern actuaries to have a depth of knowledge in the techniques and language of modern finance as well as the practical application of quantitative skills. I wish to learn to communicate complex concepts effectively and understand the broader issues at large, and see this programme as the ideal way of doing this. It also gives me the chance to socialise with the other students from Hewitt Associates and with students from other firms.
This programme should not be viewed as an easy option. It is still in its infancy, and the current students have enrolled on the course with limited knowledge of the required workload and the structure of the examinations. The exemptions are not offered on a subject-by-subject basis, meaning that a student performing well in the corporate finance course would not be exempted from CT2 if they failed to perform sufficiently well in other parts of the programme.

Way of the future?
There is little doubt that some students will prefer self-study to lectures and classes. However, the programme offered by Tanaka should be considered as an attractive supplement to the traditional route to qualification, and a proactive student will find the programme difficult to ignore. Despite the inevitable uncertainty that comes with a new academic programme, the teaching staff seem genuinely dedicated to its success. It is highly likely that other reputable business schools will follow Tanaka’s example in the coming years.