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The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recently published an interim report on its market study into the pricing of home and motor insurance. The final report – which is expected in Q1 2020 – looked at the current pricing practices of insurers and what needs to be done to make pricing fairer for all consumers. Actuarial & Pricing recruitment specialist Austin Brislen recently sat down with pricing expert Steven Ward to discuss the new interim report. Steven has worked in General Insurance for over 25 years and shared his thoughts on what this could mean for the industry, consumers and job market. Unfair pricing for a large number of consumers The Interim FCA report has identified pricing practices, widely used across the market, which they consider to be detrimental to loyal customers. Insurers often sell policies at a discount to attract new customers and increase premiums when customers renew, targeting increases at those less likely to switch. Firms also engage in a range of practices that could make it more difficult for customers to make informed decisions and could raise barriers to switching. This means that customers who switch or negotiate their premium can get a good deal, but those that fail to shop around, or are unable to do so are often out of pocket through higher prices at renewal. The FCA regard the practice of ‘price walking’, where insurers increase their margin and thus the renewal price year on year, as unfair, particularly where it targets loyal and/or vulnerable customers. The FCA is also looking to regulate the barriers consumers often face when switching at renewal, such as the use of auto-renewal. Historic pricing practices The car and home insurance markets are very competitive for new business, with price comparison sites in particular focusing on the lowest prices offered. This encourages insurers to offer discounts to attract new customers. The new business will often be sold with a small or negative margin, giving customers very good deals. Prices are increased at renewal as a result of removing the new business discount and to achieve a sustainable pricing level. Typically, new business discounts are funded from the margin insurers make on renewals, giving an acceptable return across the whole portfolio. However, the margins insurers apply at renewal are not the same for all customers. The process of optimisation sets renewal prices to maximise growth or profitability, taking into account customer characteristics that identify how likely they are to renew at different price levels. Customers who are more price sensitive are likely to pay less, while those who are less price sensitive are likely to pay more. It is this practice that can penalise loyal customers if appropriate rules are not applied. The need for insurers to price fairly and differentiate themselves In these circumstances, customers that are able to switch insurance providers regularly will benefit at the expense of customers who stay with their insurer for a number of years for whatever reason, be that an inability to shop around or loyalty. The FCA is considering a number of options to address these unfair practices. This is likely to reduce or remove price discrimination at renewal based on a customers’ likelihood to renew. It may also result in a narrowing of the differentials between new business and renewal pricing to address the concerns regarding ‘price walking’. As Steven explained: “The main changes the report is likely to bring about will be to stop companies applying higher margins to loyal customers at renewal and using them to subsidise more price sensitive customers. We may also see higher new business prices if companies are restricted in the price increases that can be applied at subsequent renewals.” Given that we may see a harmonisation of new business and renewal rates at some point in the future, companies that rely on offering substantial discounts to attract new customers will have to review their pricing strategy, and look at other ways they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. But what can insurance firms do to differentiate themselves? This is a hard question to answer. In essence, most companies offer similar products, and it can be very hard to stand out, however there are a number of ways that this could be achieved. Firstly, greater transparency could be an excellent way of winning trust amongst consumers. Some companies are already starting to offer multi-year fixed price deals or renewal price guarantees to reward loyal customers. We may see more of these type of propositions coming to the market. Increased governance and a need for knowledge One thing that is certain as a result of the market study is that insurance firms of all shapes and sizes will need to put greater emphasis on pricing governance and fair treatment of customers. This is not a new requirement, but the FCA feels it has not had the attention that it should have had. Steven expects that the FCA will be looking for greater transparency of customer outcomes and companies will be expected to evidence that they are treating all customers fairly. This may call for more talent in this space to help insurers navigate the new regulations. Steven explained. “Candidates that have a good understanding of the regulatory framework will be increasingly important as pricing professionals will be required to explain how their proposals satisfy the new requirements. I advise any pricing professionals currently looking for new opportunities in the market to up-skill on the market study and new regulations to ensure they have a good working understanding of what constitutes fair pricing.” The need for talent with a broad range of skills In terms of talent demands within the insurance sector as a whole, I believe it will largely be business as usual, with a possible increased need for candidates with experience or knowledge in governance. One change I do foresee happening however is a much greater push towards candidates with a multidisciplinary skillset, i.e. pricing and data science are becoming a lot more closely aligned, and Steven agrees. “Insurers are already looking to make greater use of data science skills within pricing and this will continue to be the case. Any FCA remedies are likely to refine existing practices, rather than making wholesale changes.” From a pricing perspective it will be a case of evolution rather than revolution. Companies are already reviewing their pricing practices and making changes where required to come in-line with FCA expectations, so I think these changes will be somewhat organic and bedded in during 2020. What does the future hold? It is still a little unclear what the final report will say, so it is hard to predict what the future looks like. What we do know is that the FCA has not been prescriptive in how insurers should behave, which gives some room for interpretation. When asked about what will happen after the report is released, Steven said: “Some insurers will be more in-line with the FCA's requirements than others, although I expect they will all have room for improvement in different areas. However I do believe that discounts will continue to be offered to attract new customers, and those discounts may be subsidised by existing customers to some extent, but I expect existing customers to get a fairer deal at renewal.” The element of competition within the General Insurance market in my opinion is essential, and if we regulate the sector too much, we could see some of the innovation that the market has produced start to be stifled. I therefore hope that the FCA remedies help to protect consumers who need protecting, without removing the element of competition. I also think that a greater awareness of the need for consumers to shop around on a regular basis would help ensure they are getting a good deal. Can we help? What do you think the new FCA regulations will mean for the pricing sector? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch with me to discuss. Alternatively, if you are looking for a new opportunity within the pricing sector check out our latest jobs here.
In this blog Actuarial Recruitment Manager Austin Brislen offers his best advice to students, graduates and professionals looking to secure a role within the Actuarial, General Insurance or Pricing sector. From choosing the right degree and employer for you, to being open minded about the type of job you want, we have all the advice you need to start a successful career within Actuarial, General Insurance or Pricing. Do you dream of becoming an Actuary? Are you currently studying and hoping to secure a role within Actuarial, General Insurance or Pricing but not sure where to start? Are you thinking about changing careers to become an Actuary? Then you have come to the right place. In this blog I have rounded up some of the questions I get asked by candidates, and offer my advice for anyone looking to secure a role and be successful in Actuarial, General Insurance or Pricing. Choose the right degree for you – follow your heart, not your mind It is a common misconception that to secure a role within the Actuarial sector you need to study an Actuarial science degree, however that is not the case. Many of the candidates I speak to nowadays have degrees in various subjects, and are enjoying a successful career in the sector. Sometimes a degree in Actuarial Science may actually go against you as these degrees provide you with exemptions from taking exams at a later date, which you may think is a good thing. However some employers feel that taking the exams whilst working in full time employment post-graduation is vital for aspiring Actuaries to develop the ability to multitask and see the theory from the exams on the job. One of the most important things to remember here is that grades are everything! Most of the clients I speak to daily accept candidates with degrees of all disciplines, although preference is almost always given to degrees in maths or other highly numerate subjects. Whatever the degree, most organisations will require you to have excellent academic results. To be considered you will generally need a 1st or a 2:1 whilst there are some companies that will consider a 2:2 or above, however this is quite rare. Make sure you apply for the right roles, within the right organisations Most insurance companies will invest in the professional development of their staff and encourage their employees to take advantage of on-the-job training so it is important to think about the type of business you want to work for. Choosing the right role, and organisation for you will be dependent on the size of company you want to be working for. Larger insurers will offer you the opportunity to work in a number of different teams but these teams will typically focus on more specialised technical areas or specific products. Whereas a smaller insurer will likely have less teams for you to work in but you may gain exposure to more parts of the business or technical work in a shorter space of time. Graduate schemes: larger organisations usually have graduate schemes with set times for applying. Graduate schemes will usually require you to do set placements in different departments of the organisation to widen your skills and experience. Candidates in graduate schemes will also be able to enjoy mentoring from senior staff and/or training designed to fast-track your progression into a management role, making this route a good option for anyone who is career hungry and would like to progress quickly. You are also likely to be given support to complete a professional qualification of your choice, with most who opt to do one, choosing the Actuarial route. Graduate jobs: a graduate job on the other hand will be advertised as a junior role within the organisation, for example an Actuarial Trainee/Analyst or entry level Pricing Analyst. These tend to be offered by smaller organisations and may be recruited for on an ad-hoc basis at any point through the year and do not generally have a set training schedule. Instead you will mentored by professionals within the organisation and learn on the job. Hiring managers will want to see you are committed and have experience under your belt Getting as much sector relevant experience throughout university and your career is imperative if you want to have a winning edge over your competition during the interview and selection process. It is therefore important to get some work experience or an internship during your term/summer breaks whilst studying. A key differentiator for hiring managers when looking through entry level applications is those who have proactively sourced a relevant Actuarial placement or internship. You do not have to be a graduate to move into Actuarial, General Insurance or Pricing Candidates often think that only new graduates and candidates with experience in insurance can secure a role as an Actuary or a job within Pricing, but that is not the case. There are also opportunities for more experienced candidates that may be interested in a change of career. Over the years I have encountered many people who have changed career at a later stage in life. Making the switch from numerate roles in other industries, such as Engineering, Academia and even secondary school Math Teachers. Most importantly, be open minded with what you are looking for and think outside the box! My biggest piece of advice and something I feel is not discussed widely enough, is that there are plenty of roles available for candidates that have not got the qualifications or the grades required to become an Actuary. That is not to say that candidates that decide to take this route do not have the skills to become an Actuary, more that there are other routes into the sector that are rarely advertised or known about. Within Pricing there are endless possibilities for you to work in a highly statistical role where you will learn anything from how to build general linearized models to utilising the latest machine learning techniques. These roles are perfect for candidates that want to get into General Insurance Pricing, but do not necessarily want to study to become an Actuary. If this blog has peaked your interest, or you are looking for your next role within Actuarial, General Insurance or Pricing, feel free to contact Austin Brislen or a member of our Actuarial recruitment team directly. Alternatively, Austin and his team would be delighted to offer you advice on your next career move, or you can read more tips on securing your dream role on our candidate resources section.
Actuarial professionals need to keep up-to-date with relevant industry news to ensure they are always ready to deal with changes and developments across the sector. This is hugely important for those that may be seeking a new Actuarial job or are hoping to progress in their current firm. Here we run-down the top Twitter feeds we think Actuarial professionals should follow to ensure they remain up-to-date and secure a new job opportunity or promotion in the Actuarial sector. If you are an actuarial professional then you know that staying up-to-date with the latest industry news can be vital in keeping ahead of financial and business developments that affect the sector. This is particularly important if you are on the lookout for your next career move. Today’s recruiters and employers increasingly want to make sure that their candidates are aware of current affairs, trends, the latest reports and challenges, so that they can apply this insight for the better progression and development of the organisation as a whole. But how to do this? Well, this is where Twitter can become your most valuable resource! Like many sectors, the actuary community is hugely active on Twitter in sharing news, analysis, data, good practice and commentary, as well as providing the opportunity for digital networking and connection-building. If you are new to Twitter, or are not quite sure where to start, we have compiled a list of the essential accounts every Actuarial professional should follow in 2019. If you think we have missed any that you think should be added to the list, please do get in touch and let us know! 1. @TheActuaryMag – The Actuary is the official magazine for the UK actuarial profession, and its Twitter feed is must-follow for news, features and opinion. 2. @actuarialpost – The Twitter feed from Actuarial Post shares news, in-depth articles and analysis about the actuarial marketplace, covering topics such as investments, software, lifestyle, insurance and pensions. 3. @actuarynews – The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is the UK's chartered professional body, dedicated to educating, developing and regulating actuaries based both in the UK and internationally. Its Twitter feed is a mix of company news and events, as well as sharing topical news and information affecting the sector. 4. @JosephLu2011 – Joseph Lu is an actuary who specialises in longevity risk. He tweets science-related news and information that has, or could have, an impact on insurance and society. 5. @CapEconUK – The official Twitter account of Capital Economics UK shares insights, data and research on the UK economy. It also offers commentary and analysis on issues ranging from social housing to manufacturing, the impact of Brexit, retail, oil prices and more. 6. @FT – For all things financial, the Financial Times Twitter feed is the go-to for up-to-date news and information covering a broad range of issues that affect the actuary sector and beyond. 7. @Forbes – Similar to the Financial Times, Forbes is an international publication with a Twitter feed that shares news, information, analysis and commentary relating to the world of business. 8. @ReutersBiz – Sharing business news from around the world, the Reuters Business Twitter account covers finance, markets, tech, world news and politics. 9. @gailtheactuary – Actuary Gail Tverberg shares information and data about energy and oil, the limits to these resources, and how these limits are affecting the financial system and our lives. 10. @IntActuarial – This is the official Twitter account for the International Actuarial Association, the worldwide association of professional actuarial associations. The feed posts information about events and webinars, as well as information about relevant white papers and reports. 11. @RoyalStatSoc – The Royal Statistical Society is a membership body that promotes a world with data at the heart of understanding and decision making. By following its Twitter account, you’ll find out about its latest events, courses and training. 12. @SellickGroup – No actuarial Twitter list would be complete without our own Twitter page! Be sure to follow us for the latest news, events, press and jobs! For further information on how to use social media effectively to assist you in your job search, check out our wide-ranging resources for candidates here. Or if you are ready to kick-start your career today, take a look at our latest actuary jobs here. Or, to speak to a member of our Actuarial recruitment team, call Manager Austin Brislen directly on 0151 224 1480.