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The profession

What is an actuary?

In spite of the very important role of actuaries, in most countries the profession is not well known, sometimes not even known at all. We can sum up their activities as follows:

Actuaries cope with uncertainty and financial risks.

To that end actuaries design schemes to control the financial risks or future uncertainties, which, as you know: are plentiful ...

Actuaries apply mathematical, statistical, economic and financial analyses and theories to solve a wide range of real business problems: in insurance, pensions, investments and banking. Part of their job is to try and predict what money will do when it is invested in insurance, pensions, stock markets or other financial services.  Actuaries are therefore among the most influential professionals in the financial world. A lot of the actuaries' work can be described as 'risk management', that is, assesment of the probability of events and  of the associated costs .

Actuaries have always combined excellent mathematical skills with the ability to think clearly and logically. They also need to be sharp-focused and detail-oriented. Actuaries must be interested  in such subjects as probability and risk identification and assessment, and  have the ability to understand such complex financial topics as derivatives.  Actuaries should also be on easy terms with their professional environment as well as solution-oriented.

Examples of actuarial occupations

  • to design and recommend company pension schemes

  • to advise on acquisitions, mergers, corporate recovery, and financing capital projects

  • to advise insurance companies as to their financial reserves to meet claims

  • to calculate a company's financial status

  • to design new insurance policies and other financial products and contracts

  • to calculate and set premium rates to be paid under financial arrangements

  • to price financial derivatives

  • to be employed in fund management or in quantitative investment research

  • to assist in matters of investment policy and asset allocation

  • to assess demographic influences on financial arrangements

  • to supervise insurance companies and pension funds for the government

Where do actuaries work?

In carrying out this work, actuaries draw on resources provided by other professionals: legal, accounting, medical, economic, etc. They refer to information provided in journals, mathematical tables, statistical and other records and use sophisticated computer programmes to process the relevant data.

The traditional areas in which actuaries operate are: life and general insurance, pensions, consultancy and investment. Actuaries are also moving into other fields where their analytical skills are useful.