In our second article on the IFoA Curriculum we look at how professional work is evolving, and how non-technical ‘soft’ skills are playing an increasing rolealongside traditional actuarial competencies
As professions recognise that their members need a wider and more holistic skillset to face the demands of the 21st century, ‘soft’ skills are starting to feature prominently in the professional’s toolkit. In the future, employers will look for actuaries who can demonstrate these skills. Chief among these competencies will be emotional intelligence, a growth mindset and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to embrace change. What does this mean for actuaries in practice? And how can they apply it to their careers?
A changing profession
All professionals know that the future of work will be very different. They will work for longer, move jobs more frequently and potentially shift careers. Actuaries are already seeing how their profession is evolving and adapting to this brave new world.
An IFoA survey last year revealed that more than 50% of respondents believed actuarial skills and competencies will need to change in all areas of the profession. Technological developments, changes in regulation and societal factors will be the most significant drivers. When asked what they thought would be the most important competencies in the next five years, respondents consistently identified ‘soft’ skills as being most critical, including qualities such as agility, adaptability and the ability to communicate.
“When asked what would be the most important competencies, respondents consistently identified ‘soft’ skills as most critical”
Alongside this is the growing recognition that responsibility for developing careers sits with the individual.Reflective practice is a significant and meaningful way in which actuaries can focus on what they want to achieve professionally. It allows an individual to think through their ambitions and career aspirations consider their strengths and weaknesses, and compare these with the skillset they will require in the future. It creates a longer-term perspective to help identify career goals and, if there are gaps in their competencies, direct them to the place in which they can access the required professional development.
As former IFoA president and Aon partner Jane Curtis, who is a reflective practice discussion (RPD) mentor and advocate for this change, says: “I have long been passionate about career-long learning and that it doesn’t stop at qualification. It’s a cradle-to-grave approach and I’m pleased the IFoA is embracing this, as we all have a lot to learn.
“It keeps us motivated and stops us from becoming stale by embracing new ideas.”
In the summer of 2020, the IFoA introduced RPDs as part of its commitment to developing a more learning profession. Fiona Morrison, also a former IFoA president and previously a pensions partner at Lane Clark & Peacock LLP, said of her experience taking part in reflective practice discussions: ‘The fact that you stop the treadmill and reflect on what you are doing is very valuable. The supportive challenge of the conversation helps you look above the horizon and think: am I being too narrow?’
A 21st-century learning profession
How will actuaries access the professional development they seek from their reflective practice? In a recent IFoA survey on career-long learning, respondents consistently identified that they will access the future skills they need through a combination of self-directed study, digital communities, peer-to-peer learning, professional learning and IFoA post-qualification learning.
Alert to this more complex learning environment, the IFoA has recognised the distinctive role it will need to play in helping members access their learning. Its Learning Change Programme (bit.ly/IFoA_LearningChange) is centred on refreshing and continually evolving content that has global relevance to IFoA members and draws on the highest quality provision – such as its Certificate in Data Science and the soon-to-be-launched Sustainability and Climate Risk programme. This will ensure IFoA members can either be ‘signposted’ to the most contemporary material from high-quality independent learning providers, or access it directly from the IFoA.
However, this cradle-to-grave approach to career-long learning, as highlighted by Curtis, means that a passion for professional learning needs to start early in an actuary’s career. The qualification process needs to expose early-career professionals to the most contemporary content that is relevant to their futures. This means instilling a growth mindset and a desire to keep learning. Qualification must also assess new actuaries based on the skills and competencies they will need to demonstrate in the future.
This also forms part of the IFoA’s Learning Change Programme and will result in a step-change in maintaining both the quality and future relevance of its qualifications. It will result in new routes to qualification, such as the recently launched pre-Fellowship Pathway in Banking, and introduce new types of assessment using the most contemporary and high quality approaches, such as online objective-based assessment, that focus on the competencies actuaries are required to demonstrate in the workplace.
This will ensure that newly qualified actuaries have both the demonstrative skills that are appropriate for the contemporary world of actuarial work, and the growth mindset they will need to continuously reinvent themselves professionally in what will be a rapidly evolving actuarial landscape.
The next article in this series will highlight more of the changes the IFoA’s Learning Change Programme is introducing to ensure newly qualified actuaries are equipped with the skills and competencies for successful and sustainable careers.
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