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Monday, March 1, 2010
Time for stress

Actuaries have the best job, according to a recent ranking of 200 professions in the US. The findings by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac”, were based on five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. Reporting on the job ranking last month, The Wall Street Journal also noted that in addition to holding the top job, actuaries in the US find themselves in the enviable position of being in high demand.

Peter Doyle, the newly elected President of the Actuarial Society of South Africa, says the same is true for South African actuaries. “The global credit crisis has resulted in high demand for professionals qualified in risk assessment and management. Increasingly actuaries are required to lead the risk strategies of organizations instead of restricting themselves to the traditional field of product design.”
Doyle says the global financial crisis has opened a whole new career path for actuaries, which will ultimately change the perception that they are not generally exposed to high levels of stress. He says where previously organisations were generally happy to appoint as head of risk management anyone available and willing, leaders now have to apply their mind as to who is best suited to take charge of the company’s risk management portfolio.
“And they are increasingly turning to actuaries to fulfil this role since they are already skilled at identifying and mitigating risks,” comments Doyle.

Protecting shareholders and consumers

Doyle says the evolution of the profession has also placed an added responsibility on actuarial societies around the world to assist actuaries in improving skills. As a result the Society late last year joined 14 actuarial societies from other countries in adopting a tough new credential for actuaries - the Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary (CERA) designation. The new CERA credential is the most comprehensive and rigorous enterprise risk management (ERM) qualification available and will extend the analytical business skills traditionally applied by actuaries to the field of enterprise risk management.
What exactly does ERM involve? According to the International Actuarial Society, an actuary tasked with ERM is concerned with all risks faced by an organisation, while at the same time creating value for shareholders and ensuring that promises made to clients and customers are met.
Doyle says the global financial crisis exposed the practice of excessive risk taking by those who were trusted by shareholders and consumers as the guardians of their savings and investments. This, he adds, has led to a global review of regulatory frameworks for financial services institutions.
“While the South African financial services industry did not suffer a single casualty to the global crisis we are a global player and have therefore not escaped the wide reaching changes that are being implemented to prevent a recurrence of the carnage that shook the world late in 2008 and early last year.
“All members of the actuarial profession are therefore required to prepare for the regulatory reform processes and changes in corporate governance requirements as they evolve.”

Developing South African actuaries

In addition to dealing with the fallout from the global financial crisis, South Africa is also embracing dramatic changes such as retirement and social security reform and healthcare reform.
Doyle says all these initiatives involve the actuarial profession intensely since the Society is required to provide experts to contribute to the development of these reforms and to develop pro-active thinking on these changes.
Doyle says it is therefore imperative that the Society assists in developing local actuaries with an in-depth knowledge of local conditions. He adds that this has been made easier by the launch late last year of South Africa’s very own professional actuarial qualification.
Previously South Africans had to turn to foreign countries to qualify as actuaries, with the majority qualifying via the UK system.
Doyle says critical for the Society is the development of black actuaries.
“We have commissioned research into obstacles that black South African face in qualifying as actuaries. In addition we also support several mentorship programmes with the aim of helping black students at varsity level succeed in their endeavour to become qualified actuaries.”
The Society also embraces The Actuarial Profession Transformation Charter, which aims to improve the demographic profile of actuarial professionals to become more reflective of the South African population.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:23.3 1st March, 2010
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