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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Careers: Adventures in risk and investment

Now that the tough studying is over and the STs are a distant memory, all the hard work involved gives you the right to join that elite group of the UK population who are qualified actuaries.

Your new FIA status opens doors to opportunities that previously would have been beyond possibility. Qualification creates a platform where the day-to-day priorities are no longer just studying and working but expand into managing and developing core skills, thus furthering your career opportunities, increasing your earning potential, adding value and creating welcome intellectual challenges.

Actuaries have always been respected and admired for their intellect, problem solving, mathematical and economic abilities, and while the traditional role of the actuary still exists within insurance and pensions, the 21st century has presented a range of new challenges to the financial services industry, resulting in some very interesting skill and task match reviews. The effect has been the creation and evolution of opportunities for actuaries that have not existed before.

New sectors are opening up now, too — healthcare, green energy and third-world markets. In the insurance markets, you could find an actuary working in the investment, business development and risk areas — 
in the investment banks, actuaries are 
being hired into non-actuarial roles, 
typically in risk management, quantitative analysis and equities. With risk sitting high on every board’s agenda, intelligent, 
nimble-thinking and considered risk assessors are in high demand.

Business development roles are more unusual roles for actuaries. When you consider the job title, it sounds more akin to a sales role than a traditional actuarial role. These roles attract individuals with high-level interpersonal skills, who enjoy meeting people, developing relationships, networking and closing a deal — for those people, these roles offer that extra sense of achievement.

The opportunities to work in a less insulated environment, work more closely with the business and take the higher level view are what actuaries find attractive, while employers appreciate the actuaries’ ability to ‘walk the walk’, not just ‘talk the talk’, giving them credibility with the client base. The ‘making the sale’ aspect enables the actuary to measure success while gaining the buzz of closing the deal.

For the employer, having a sophisticated thinker who enjoys engaging with clients, providing a well-thought-out solution and, ultimately, selling a product adds value 
to the bottom line. The client benefits here too, with the greater understanding provided by an actuary enabling the product to be better shaped to their needs.

Investment roles excite the actuary who likes being involved at the sharp end of commercial operations. You will find actuaries in a number of markets across 
the investment arena including capital markets, derivatives, asset management 
and consulting and fund management. Running a portfolio or supporting fund managers is a much more cut and thrust business than a traditional actuarial job. 
It’s exciting, demanding, stressful and well paid.

However, everything comes at a price and in today’s volatile financial markets 
these roles can appear daunting to the more risk-averse actuary. For some, though, this is the ultimate home. These roles challenge your technical and mathematical prowess while satisfying a thirst for more excitement and commercial thrill.

Risk roles sit more naturally with the actuarial skill-set. The depth of training received and the necessity to assess and manage risk in their day-to-day roles makes for a relatively easy transition. The growing presence of enterprise risk management plays easily into the actuary’s lap.

With increasing variety and numbers of local and global risks facing organisations, companies now think more broadly about the impact of different individual risks and their combinations. Silo risk management is a dangerous path to travel — actuaries typically find themselves starting out in hybrid roles before progressing into a 
full-blown career in risk.

What becomes clear is that these roles 
all offer the same attractive benefits. 
They all provide increased opportunities to add value, more involvement in commercial decision-making and the chance to work with a broader cross-section of departments and individuals.

The role of the actuary continues to change as more and more actuaries infiltrate non-traditional areas. This will pave the way for future trainees who see themselves in time to come knocking down doors, managing funds or playing a more active role in the risk arena.


Kirsten MacLeodKirsten MacLeod is the managing director of Acumen Resources