Actuary: Rising Demand for Actuarial Services

With the opening up of the life and general insurance businesses to the private sector, the demand for actuaries is ballooning
If your forte is mathematics and/or statistics, a career as an actuary might be ideal for you. With the opening up of the life and general insurance businesses to the private sector and the entry of a large number of transnational insurance majors into the Indian market, theres a rising demand for actuarial service professionals.

One of the lesser known facts of life is that for several decades, the public sector monopoly, Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has been regularly recruiting apprentices who work while doing their actuarial studies and are absorbed into the corporation. As per the guidelines of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), it is mandatory for life and general insurance companies to employ at least one actuary designated as ‘appointed actuary. Moreover the services of actuaries are required by the product development, business planning, and investment departments of insurance companies. Actuaries are also employed in consultancy firms which provide retirement benefits, planning, and mergers/ acquisition services.

Definitionally, an actuary is a financial expert trained to apply mathematical and statistical methodologies for the assessment of risks, financial or otherwise, relating to contingent events. He/ she also undertakes the scientific valuation of financial products in the fields of insurance, investment, government, risk management and related areas.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS. To qualify as a professional actuary one has to join the Actuarial Society of India (ASI), Mumbai — website: www.actuariesindia.org — as a student. The eligibility criterion for entry is a minimum 85 percent in mathematics/statistics at the Plus Two level in any institution with English as the medium of instruction. Students also require recommendations from two fellow members of the society.

Graduates or postgraduates with a minimum average of 55 percent in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, computer science, engineering or MBA (finance) from an English medium academic background are also eligible for entry into ASI. Moreover fully qualified members of professional bodies like the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the Institute of Cost & Works Accountants of India, Insurance Institute of India, and Certified Institute of Financial Analysts of India, as also other qualified personnel such as business management graduates are admitted on a case-by-case basis.

The society conducts examinations twice a year in May/June and November. Students are required to study 16 subjects while preparing for the actuarial examinations. These subjects are grouped in the 100, 200, 300, and 400 series. After passing examinations of up to and including the 300 series and upon satisfying other criteria specified for the purpose, a student qualifies to be admitted as an associate member of ASI. As such the student is awarded an associateship certificate and can use the designatory letters AASI after his/her name. Subsequently upon clearing the 400 series level examination and satisfying other specified criteria, the student is admitted as a fellow member of the society, followed by the fellowship certificate when he can use the designatory letters FASI after his name. Both these professional examinations — Associate and Fellowship of the Society — are recognised in India as well as South-east Asia and Africa.

The syllabus and course content are in conformity with the Institute of Actuaries (IoA), London. Most ASI candidates tend to be students of IoA as well and qualify for both the examinations, thus enhancing their employment prospects in the global context. In the UK, professional bodies such as the IoA (London) and Faculty of Actuaries (Edinburgh) conduct examinations leading to internationally recognised professional qualifications. In the US, the Society of Actuaries (Schaumburg, Illinois) and the Casualty Acturial Society (Arlington, Virginia) offer certification. Moreover, City University (London) offers one of the best degree courses in acturial sciences. For those who pass the ASI exam, its roses all the way with jobs literally falling into their laps and salary cheques getting progressively fatter as the demand for actuaries outstrips supply.

In India the actuarial profession is at a historical crossroads because of the opening of the insurance industry to the private sector and the integration of Indian and global economies. A lot is happening in the global actuarial profession and the Actuarial Society of India is contributing its bit,” says Liyaquat Khan, former president of ASI who qualified as an actuary in 1973 and is a member of the International Actuarial Association, Canada.

Khan began his journey into this profession when he joined the Life Insurance Corporation of India as an executive in its all-India service in 1966. During his long innings with LIC, Khan served in responsible business development positions as deputy manager in UK, head of the Orissa and Chennai divisions, and as chief of LICs massive investments office in Mumbai. He was also sent on deputation to the government of Mauritius as actuary and financial advisor to the State Insurance Corporation of Mauritius, where he helped devise the National Pension Scheme of the government. After leaving LIC in 1993, Khan served as general manager of National Life Insurance Company, Muscat, and also on its board of directors. Since his return to India in 1996, he has been advisor to several multinational life insurance companies and is currently a member of the Insurance Advisory Committee of IRDA. And hes now handling the global actuarial function of the HSBC Bank, Kolkata.

Apart from the high-potential life insurance business, Khan believes there are a host of career opportunities in general insurance, retirement benefit consultancy, and in acquisitions and mergers for qualified actuaries. The future of the actuaries profession is very bright, particularly in the global context. Indian actuaries can serve anywhere because of their English language familiarity. The insurance business is going global and only world-class talent will survive. But for the survivors the rewards could be astronomical both in terms of job satisfaction as well as salaries,” he says.

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