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Working as a pensions actuary gives you a wide range of professional options, regardless of whether you pursue a role with a large consultancy or a smaller firm. By weighing up the pros and cons of each, you will be able to find a role that suits your personal career goals.
For skilled actuaries, the pensions market represents an exciting, dynamic and sometimes underappreciated career pathway. This adaptable and resilient sector gives actuaries plenty of opportunities to develop their skills and credentials over time, as well as a variety of different routes that professionals can choose for their careers.
Becoming a pensions actuary does not lock you into one type of work, as your professional experiences may look quite different depending on whether you choose to work for one of the industry’s largest consultancies, or one of the smaller or mid-range firms.
Here, we will take a look at the benefits of pensions actuarial work and what to expect when working at consultancies of different sizes, in order to help you evaluate your options if you are looking to switch roles within the actuarial sector.
Currently, demand for pensions actuaries is incredibly high, particularly at the part-qualified and nearly or newly qualified levels.
There has been a misconception that pensions actuarial work is diminishing in importance, or that these roles do not offer the same breadth of work as other actuarial sectors. In reality, pensions actuaries can look forward to many attractive career benefits, including:
Ultimately, for as long as pension schemes continue to be a major priority for people, the pension actuarial market will never go away. As the market continues to change, so too will the role of consultancies in providing essential advice and management services, and the remit of actuarial roles will evolve and adapt accordingly.
For many pension actuaries, the primary career goal may be to work for one of the Big Three pension consultancies. Working for one of these large consulting firms provides a number of opportunities that many ambitious professionals will be attracted by:
Those who are looking to work with a large consultancy should bear in mind that these firms will sometimes demand a high workload, which may impact your desired work-life balance. However, since the pandemic, these employers are likely to be much more flexible with their hours and remote working options than they were in the past, so it is worth speaking to them to get the most up-to-date information around what steps they have taken to improve work-life balance for their employees.
Working with the largest consultancies will not be everyone’s first choice. In many cases, pension actuaries will seek out roles with mid-tier or smaller firms in order to take advantage of the unique benefits that come with working as part of a smaller, more tightly knit team.
People considering a role outside of the Big Three will usually do so for the following reasons:
It is true that the smaller and mid-tier firms will not necessarily advise across all areas - some only work with trustee clients, for example, or may not provide advice in areas such as Risk Transfer. However, this is not to say that these companies do not still have a robust variety of clients, and many will still work with high-profile brands and Schemes.
Ultimately, the main takeaway to consider is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to career development within the pensions actuarial field. Even among companies which appear very similar on paper (such as the Big Three), every company is slightly different, and their employment offering will vary on key points, in a manner that will align with your personal career objectives in different ways.
As such, when considering a change of role within this sector, it is important to think about your professional, and often personal, priorities and aspirations, and work closely with your recruiter to find the right match. This can include looking at opportunities you had not previously considered, as you may not realise what they have to offer until you speak to a company directly.
No matter what your goals may be, there is more variation in the pensions actuarial market than you might think - and by approaching these opportunities with a strong understanding of what you want, you will be able to find the right option for you.