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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Research reveals most desired qualities in actuarial consultants

Independent advice and thinking freely are two of the characteristics that UK pension schemes value most in actuarial consultants, a survey of 100 senior trustees has found.

Plans to increase spending on actuarial consultants ©iStock
Plans to increase spending on actuarial consultants ©iStock

The research also shows that “reaching an impasse or crisis point” on a project is the number one reason for trustees to change their consultant, cited by three-quarters of respondents.

A change in market conditions, standard governance procedures, and rising costs were mentioned as the next most likely reasons for triggering a retendering process.

Paul Houghton, partner at Barnett Waddingham, which carried out the research, said independent advice and thinking freely are also crucial factors in avoiding retendering triggers.

“Independence of thought allows a consultant to be unrestricted in offering what they consider to be the most appropriate advice for an individual scheme,” he continued.

“The scheme can therefore be confident advice is correct for the scheme and avoid reaching crisis points, which can happen if there are other factors influencing the advice.”

The survey also found that schemes are “very happy to share negative feedback on a regular basis” when assessing actuarial consultants, but rarely share positive feedback.

Houghton said that schemes have a right to expect high standards from their consultants, but urged them to do more to measure, monitor and assess performance.

This comes after Barnett Waddingham found that more than half of the UK’s leading life insurers expect to increase their spending on actuarial consultants this year.

Three in five insurers plan to spend more, with almost a third expecting to pay the same, and just one-tenth set to spend less.

This is thought to be in response to a number of structural challenges facing the industry, such as managing legacy products on inefficient IT systems and tight regulatory oversight.

“To overcome these challenges, the industry has become more dependent upon external consultants in recent years,” Barnett Waddingham partner, Scott Eason, said.

“Actuarial consultants are being brought in to do the heavy lifting and provide expert input on the projects that proliferate across technology, product and risk areas.”

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