Why you should retrain as an actuary

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It wasn't so long ago that the actuarial profession was bemoaning losing bright, numerical graduates to more dynamic roles in the banking sector. Now, with demand for actuaries still exceeding supply while banks aggressively pare back headcount, you could do worse that switching across to this comparatively stable vocation.

The route to becoming an actuary is an arduous one - training typically comprises five years of heavily quantitative exams - but the message is clear; insurers and life insurers want to recruit more actuaries than they can find.

Part of the impetus is the demands of Solvency II. Not only does this mean more actuaries are required, but many are leaving permanent roles for lucrative contract positions related to the legislation (which pay between 1,000-2,500 a day), and this means more holes to fill.

"General insurance and life insurance firms are recruiting actuaries in decent numbers anyway, but the fact that many are leaving to work for consultancies on legislative projects, means that demand is even higher," says Steve Stubbings, managing director at insurance and pensions recruiter The Emerald Group.

The result is that more people are "chancing their arm" and attempting to switch across to actuarial roles in insurance and life insurance companies, says Paul Walsh CEO of actuarial recruiters Acumen Resources.

"Underwriters, highly technical risk managers in banking, actuaries working in consulting or investment roles or those in the insurance groups of investment banks are considering switching to actuarial roles," he says. "Generally, it's important to have relevant skills before attempting the training process."

Pay for actuaries is good compared to other industries, but not stellar when weighed against other financial sector jobs. Student actuaries earn an average of 31.7k, according to figures from the Actuarial Profession, rising to 45.3k upon qualification and it's only when you reach a function head role that pay goes north of 100k.

A senior function head or practice director earns an average of 125.7k and a chief actuary can expect 227.6k.

"Average pay hasn't increased with demand, and it's only when actuaries leave for new career opportunities that they see an uplift," says Walsh. "Increasingly, though, firms are offering loyalty bonuses - sometimes after two years of service, or occasionally upon joining, which can be retracted if the actuary leaves before a pre-determined period of time."