Articles - Life after the recession: the actuarial market

Brigitte Alaimo, consultant at GAAPS Actuarial, looks at the state of the actuarial market as Britain comes out of recession.

 Like the wider economy, the actuarial profession seems to be growing once more, with increased demand for jobs and more vacancies arising - but it is not a consistent picture. Some sectors are growing faster than others, but not uniformly. Sectors that grow quickly one month can be inexplicably flat the next.
 Whilst 2012 so far has certainly improved, it is difficult to predict which areas will grow in the New Year. However, here are some trends and pointers which give an indication:
 Recruiting from your own country
 The actuarial profession is famous for having transferable skills, which historically meant it was relatively easy to move to new countries and take existing skills with you. However, at the moment, many UK employers seem reluctant to take on actuaries from overseas, preferring to recruit from the UK - a pattern repeated worldwide.
 Perhaps it is because there is currently sufficient talent available at a national level that employers do not need to look abroad to fill vacancies? Perhaps do they not want to handle the paperwork and costs that are associated with that process? This isn't to say that recruitment from abroad has ceased in all areas; in places where there is a shortage of skills, actuaries are still regularly recruited from overseas.
 Hiring skills as a priority
 One trend that has emerged over the course of the recession is that companies are less likely to hire inexperienced staff and train them in-house. They are looking for people with a specific set of skills, and a proven track record in putting those skills into practice.
 Employers are much less likely to take on and train up staff with experience in related areas. The exception to this is graduate recruitment, which is still seen as an important part of the workforce mix. Graduates can also be a relatively inexpensive addition to the workforce. That said, there are some employers who are reducing their graduate intake.
 As training has been reduced, staff are expected to be up and running almost from day one - and employers' expectations are often so high that the right candidate is almost impossible to find, particularly where a predecessor with unique knowledge must be replaced.
 Better the devil you know?
 Whilst staff were once keen to move to take on new challenges and improve their future promotion prospects, the recession has meant that staying where you are - even if it is unfulfilling - has become the order of the day. Actuaries are still being careful (as is their nature), about the roles for which they would consider moving.
 Staff seem less likely to move from their current employer when they are uncertain of their long-term job security. Concerns relating to the old adage of 'last in, first out' add to this focus for those who have been in their current roles for a long time.
 Because of this, staff loyalty appears to have increased. However, over the second half of 2012 this is gradually starting to change and more and more candidates are showing a willingness to explore other options.
 Sector-specific conditions
 The insurance sector in the UK is among the most buoyant within the UK actuarial market, with the highest number of vacancies posted over the past quarter for quite some time. Specific growth can be attributed to the General Insurance segment, with an injection of roles across the board.
 Solvency II has kept the contract market thriving throughout 2012, with many of our clients' roles heavily focused on regulations. We are still receiving an increasing number of interim vacancies however; we have heard from our candidates that other agencies may perhaps not be as fortunate, and that the contract market has quietened down towards the end of year.
 What we have also found is that many contractors, who at one time would never consider permanent roles, are now curious about the growing number of permanent opportunities we have available.
 Dr Geraldine Kaye, Managing Director of GAAPS Recruitment, says: "Despite the state of the economy, we are still getting a steady stream of new vacancies. In fact, we are getting so many that some days we do not have time to put them on our external website."
 Roles are naturally sparser at the top of the hierarchy, but the recession saw some particularly outstanding senior candidates spend early 2012 searching the market to no avail. Despite our best marketing efforts, and their own exhaustive business networks, the roles were just not out there. As the year has gone on, we have seen some of these placed and a welcome increase in senior level roles, indicating a return to business growth.
 At the moment, life is great in the actuarial recruitment market. But I don't have a crystal ball and wouldn't like to predict what will happen tomorrow. My gut feeling is that things are looking up, and I am excited to see what 2013 has in store for us. As public morale increases and the scaremongering media retreat, I believe that next year could well be the genesis of a new, healthier market.

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