Jenny reflects on the actuarial profession and market for actuaries following her year as president of the Actuaries Institute in 2017
A key highlight for me as president was meeting so many members across Australia and overseas, particularly in Asia. This gave me the opportunity to discover the wide variety of areas in which people work, and how jobs are changing for those working in more traditional fields. This was particularly brought home to me outside of Sydney, where opportunities in financial services organisations are less common. Individuals have had to think carefully about how their skills can be applied in different ways and how they can demonstrate value to employers and clients in fields where there is no legislated need for actuaries.
One topic I discussed frequently was that of data analytics and the role for actuaries in this field. As a profession, in Australia and globally, this has generated a lot of discussion and activity, with some of the overseas actuarial organisations actively developing courses and seeking to establish their credentials in this area where actuaries have been strong historically. The new international education syllabus will ensure students at university will need to cover some subjects in this area and the education review, now in implementation phase, is also recognising the need for actuaries of the future to be able to work with data scientists and ensures some of the necessary skills are part of our tool kit.
How best can actuaries move into analytics, or in fact into any field where we are not established as the “go to” profession ? There is a clear need for individuals to forge the way. Historically this is how new areas have been opened up for actuaries, and there is no immediate requirement for the actuarial qualification in any data analytics roles. However, we have a great start, being highly numerate, strong at analysing and understanding data, and having the ability to bring a business and commercial focus enabling us to help businesses strategically. We do as a profession need to develop some skills, particularly around programming and staying on top of the rapid advancements being made in this field all the time. This is something an individual can do as there are good online courses in R and Python and you can get involved in “meet up” groups bringing together people who have an interest in this field etc, etc.
If you want to move into a new field then I am a big believer in the need to get on top of the language and background to the field by talking to people and applying for jobs to find out which skills are valued and which you need to develop. Those people who recognise both that they need to demonstrate what they do know by being an actuary, and what they may need to learn, are those most likely to be successful.
I noted many times during the year that the core strength of our profession is the quality and capability of our members. I focussed my year around thinking about the needs of people in our profession, in particular considering the needs of the students and younger actuaries who are so important to how the profession develops in the future.
People will continue to be a focus for me while working with the consultants at SKL.