The role of Pensions Actuary is an interesting, varied and challenging career. The Pensions Actuary will be on hand to advise the sponsoring company, scheme trustees and members on important issues such as the design of their scheme, selecting the most suitable investment vehicles to be used, protecting members when schemes are changed or when companies are bought and sold, and enabling individuals to transfer benefits from one scheme to another. The Actuary also has a pivotal role in ensuring schemes and their company sponsors meet what can often be the complex and onerous legislative and legal requirements associated with running a pension scheme.
A Pensions Actuary will have qualified as a Fellow of the Faculty or Institute of Actuaries. The qualification requires the passing of exams which are both numerous and difficult together with other requirements for professional development. There are no formal requirements for qualifications gained prior to the commencement of training but good A-levels are the suggested minimum and a good degree with a mathematical or statistical background is recommended.
Although the qualification could be attained in as little as three years it takes six years on average. Despite the extensive examinations, training is mostly by practical experience in the workplace under the watchful eye of more experienced colleagues and those already qualified. Cross discipline training can also form an important part of development.
Once qualified, the successful Actuary will have an eye for detail but also an appreciation of the bigger picture. They should be as equally at home in the library or boardroom, talking to scientists or artists, writing a complicated computer program or a complex letter. Communication and negotiation skills are a key quality.
Although embarking on the course that leads to becoming an Actuary is daunting steps can be taken to smooth the way. A strong mathematics background is invaluable in the early examinations and in grasping the basic principles of actuarial science. More specifically, many universities now run courses approved by both the Faculty and Institute that can, if passed to a sufficient level, provide exemptions from the main examinations. The head start that this enables could see two years removed from the qualification process.
The role of a Pensions Actuary is varied and can be both professionally and financially rewarding for those who meet the exacting standards required.