Future Fellows - June 2012
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Being Valued at Your Company or the Next

By Thomas J. Duffy, FCAS, MAAA

Is your job frustrating you? Is your career path murky? Do you believe you are undervalued at work?

Sound familiar?

I am hearing these frustrations much more often in the last few years from young actuaries. I have always looked for two things in my job:   

  • Am I continuing to learn?   
  • Are my contributions valued?
If you are continuing to learn at your job, you will be increasing your value to your current and future employers. If you don’t feel challenged in your current job and believe you are in a rut in your career, you need to be aggressive in changing that.

If your current employer is not valuing your contributions, you need to work on changing that valuation as well. If you don’t see that happening where you are, you should explore your options.

What are firms looking for right now from their actuaries and future actuaries? Employers want:   
  • Strong technical skills.   
  • Good judgment, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.   
  • Excellent communication skills.   
  • Good people skills.
Employers expect their actuaries to get through the actuarial exams. They want them to have a solid knowledge base and understanding of the employer’s and client’s operations. Actuaries with a working knowledge of applying insurance and risk-based models are especially valued.

Passing the exams successfully is important, but the ability to get quickly to the gist of a problem and solve it isn’t always highly correlated. Employers and clients want actuaries who can solve their problems effectively and demonstrate good judgment.

They want actuaries who can then communicate their solutions. If you can’t explain your solution to a problem, you haven’t solved the client’s problem.

Some actuaries are good at all the above skills, but just aren’t good team players. If you are not in demand by your internal or external clients, if project managers don’t seek you out to be on their team, you should figure out why.

Most employers interview for these skills and try to assess them in their performance management systems. Many employers have series of prescribed questions designed to assess prospects’ skills in these areas. Often, they use behavioral interviewing techniques. They are asking prospects to relate how they have applied these skills in their past life.

I asked several people involved in hiring actuaries what the current hot employment areas are. I am paraphrasing Bob Morand’s list that you may find useful. Bob is the managing partner at DW Simpson, a leading recruiter of actuaries. Here is what Bob sees as the high demand areas for actuaries:   
  • Predictive Analytics   
  • Catastrophe Modeling.   
  • ERM/Solvency II/Basel/ORSA modeling experience.   
  • Specialty Lines (especially Professional Liability)
If you can become the expert in one of these fields within your firm, you will be valued.   
  • Become the expert at your firm.   
  • Be the effective problem solver.   
  • Be the great communicator.   
  • Be the actuary everyone wants on their team.
Tom Duffy is director and actuary at AON Global Risk Consulting in Chicago, Illinois, and a member of the CAS Candidate Liaison Committee.

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