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15 minutes with Manager Austin Brislen

Posted by
09 Jun 2017
To celebrate our 15th year in business we sat down with Manager Austin Brislen to discuss his career to date and his advice to anyone seeking a career in the actuarial market.

How has your career developed since you joined Sellick Partnership?

Before I joined Sellick Partnership I worked in the actuarial market for four years at my previous company recruiting predominantly within the General Insurance space. I joined Sellick Partnership three years ago in May 2014. Initially I joined to cover the practice market, recruiting auditors for the Big Four and some of the top ten accountancy firms. I did this initially for just under 12 months in order to develop myself and my personal brand at Sellick Partnership, and in 2015 made the move back to actuarial and picked up a lot of old contacts and clients. 

What geographical area do you cover?

I recruit all over the UK. From a candidate perspective we recruit people from all over the globe. We have applications from everywhere – Australia, Asia, India and America. It is such a niche market so it is very common to get candidates from all over the world. Most of my current clients are UK and Ireland based, so I cover a fairly large geographical area.

How has the actuarial market developed during your career?

Candidates now have a lot more choice and have a greater amount of roles to choose from making the market very much candidate-led – which is great for candidates but becoming a challenge for clients. Clients now have to work much harder to secure highly-skilled candidates because more often than not the best candidates will be speaking with a number of reputable firms. This has also led to an increase in salaries across the board, but it has also meant employees have to think creatively when offering additional benefits. It is now essential for employers to think about the whole picture when offering remuneration packages to candidates. My clients are now offering initiatives such as flexible working and will take a much greater interest in ensuring the culture of the business is right. Culture is of huge importance now to candidates who are becoming very selective. The market is much more dynamic, and organisations have to think on their feet if they are serious about securing the best talent.

What advice would you give to anyone seek a role in the actuarial market?
If someone wants a career in the actuarial profession there are a number of routes they can take. Firstly candidates can choose to study a degree heavily focused on mathematics. Degrees such as maths, statistics, economics, physics, chemistry and natural sciences are popular amongst actuarial candidates. Clients will always look for candidates with a very strong academic background, especially at degree level, so achieving a solid degree is a must. The main challenge candidates are facing is obtaining the right level of practical experience. Many of my clients will specifically ask for candidates that have on-the-job experience. I would therefore advise junior candidates to seek relevant work placements or internships whilst studying to ensure they are attractive to employers. Clients will also be looking for someone that is committed to the profession, so getting this experience is a great way of showing that from the start.

There has also been an increase in the number candidates trying to fast track their way into the profession. There are a number of degrees now that give you exemptions from the actuarial exams. To qualify as an actuary candidates should usually expect to sit around 15 modules (combination of exams and some courses), most candidates will take somewhere between four and seven years to complete, but it is achievable in three. In order to speed up the process some candidates are choosing to study an Actuarial Science degree because it will provide exemptions from a large proportion of the exams speeding up the qualification process, however many employers ‘frown’ on this approach. I would therefore advise against this route, especially for those that want to work for the larger firms. In my opinion the best route into the profession is ensuring you have strong A Level results, a highly mathematical degree and some work experience, so get an internship or do a degree with a sandwich year placement.

Where do you see the actuarial market progressing in the next five to ten years?

The biggest change I predict is an increase in the number of non-actuarial candidates securing what were traditionally actuarial roles – a trend we are already witnessing. To qualify as an actuary and to put someone through the qualifications is incredibly expensive for employers. Employers will have to pay membership fees every year and they have to consider giving candidates paid time off to sit exams. In addition employers will also have to pay for the exams and any entry fees. One thing we have noticed in recent years as a result is a rise in the number of candidates securing analytical roles – roles that may have traditionally been done by an actuary but who may not have the formal qualifications an actuary does. The area where this is most prominent is pricing. Candidates that specialise in pricing are expected to price insurance policies and build pricing models but they do not necessarily have to be qualified as an actuary to do it. Candidates like this typically cost less and will do the same role as an actuary will do, but without all the additional costs, and I see this as a trend that will continue as employers tighten the purse strings.

I also think we will continue to see the market diversify – this may be a positive move as it could result in less qualified actuaries coming into the market. In pricing for example around 50 percent of candidates will be non-actuarial and 50 percent qualified actuaries, and if this number diversifies further it will push actuarial salaries up and provide qualified actuarial professionals with greater career prospects long-term.

What is your proudest professional moment at Sellick Partnership?
The fact that I have been given the opportunity to come into the business and developed two different markets from scratch, and make them both profitable and successful desks is probably my proudest achievement. Also, launching the actuarial brand and getting it to a point where we are recognised as a recruiter of choice in that area is a great achievement in such a short space of time.
To find out more about our 15th anniversary campaign please visit our dedicated webpage, alternatively you can find out more about the roles Austin is recruiting to please contact the Liverpool office on 0151 834 1642 or email austin.brislen@sellickpartnership.co.uk. 15th anniversary 

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