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The Modern Pensions Actuary

Posted on
December 20, 2018

Actuary - noun

“An individual who does precise guess-work based upon unreliable data, provided by those of questionable knowledge”

Granted, not an accurate description of what an Actuary does, but brought a smile to my face nonetheless.

The phrase “moving with the times” is often referred to technology. People must embrace technology or face being left behind. Whilst I agree with this statement, it is just as prevalent to certain job roles, not just technology and Actuaries are a prime example.

Actuarial techniques are continually evolving and being applied in more and more refined ways. The ability to match up projects, appropriate actuarial techniques and the needs of your client requires an in-depth understanding of both your specialism and your client.

Gone are the days of hiding behind screens, crunching numbers frantically. The range of work has widened and the need to communicate issues and solutions is a genuine challenge. A key role for the ‘modern’ Pension Actuary, lie in leading the way to identifying, communicating and presenting solutions.

The Pensions sector is not without challenge and opportunity;

  • The economic environment is tough and unpredictable. Clients see the value that Pension Actuaries add – particularly in helping them manage the financial risks associated with Pension funds.
  • The majority of Final Salary/Defined Benefit Schemes have closed to new business. The traditional work associated with these schemes will inevitably reduce
  • Shape the future of Pension provision. Embrace the changing face of the sector and Actuaries will have the chance to make a major difference.

The ‘modern’ Pensions Actuary role has changed. The days of doing clever sums in your own Pensions universe, just doesn’t cut it anymore, well it shouldn’t be if you want to progress and move upwards. Embracing change is a must.

Love it or loath it, client facing work is integral and developing your communications skills has never been so important. Attending a couple of trustee meetings a year isn’t enough. You should be getting out of the office, seeing the real world for yourself. Interacting with other humans is now essential.

 “Variety” – that seems to be one of the most used words I’ve come across in the Pensions Actuarial market this year – particularly at Part Qualified/Nearly Qualified level – but what does that mean?

It is the ‘modern Pension Actuary. Variety is the spice of life, who would think you are talking about Actuaries when reading that phrase? If you are two or even three years into an Actuarial role, you should understand all elements and Divisions associated with your company, not just focusing on the task in hand. It just isn’t the norm.

  •  Project work is becoming more common, even being an essential part of the role. a big yes for those who enjoy a more diverse role.
  • Getting involved in investment is more attainable than ever before; whilst jumping from actuarial to investment is difficult (unless you are willing to take a sizable pay cut) the opportunity to spend 20% of your time within the sector is a popular choice and helps the potential transition into an investment role in the future.

  •  DB/DC Plan design, Pensions plan financial management, asset/liability modelling and broader risk management work are also a realistic option.

Working in Actuarial recruitment is exciting and interesting, another phrase you have not misread. Seeing roles becoming more diverse and finding the right characteristics in individuals that fit those roles is challenging yet rewarding. Firms we have relationships with, leverage off our knowledge to develop their roles, so they get the ‘modern’ Pension Actuary working for them

The market has changed, is still changing and it isn’t going to stop in the near future. The breadth of opportunity for the adaptable is sky high. Those who are struggling for exposure in a top-heavy environment are at risk at being left behind. Don’t be, take control of your career.


Have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 


Harry McNeill

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