If you are interested in making a career move into ERM and do not have any current experience, here are a few ideas which might help you to make that transition:

  • Get CERA qualified
  • Hone your “softer” skills
    These are of course very important in any actuarial practice area, but being able to demonstrate strong personal and business skills such as communication, adaptability, tenacity and leadership can be particularly useful when making a transition between different areas. Those who work in ERM emphasise the importance of being able to understand the full range of business functions and activities, of being able to communicate clearly with and to non-actuaries, and of being willing to both listen and challenge – and to spot when you are not being told the truth or only half of the truth! And of course softer skills will be valuable during any interview process
  • Read around the subject
    There is a wide variety of material available on ERM which will allow you to understand the range of activities which comprise the risk management cycle and to appreciate current issues and developments. As well as providing the base for your personal development, it can help you to make decisions about which particular risk management area you might wish to focus on or whether you would prefer a wider ERM role
  • Attend events
    As with the above, attendance at ERM-related events will both help you to improve your understanding and knowledge of the area and will be something that those who are recruiting for ERM roles will be looking for. There are many risk management focussed events available, internationally and nationally
  • Network
    Take every opportunity to talk to others who work in ERM.
  • Get involved with the profession
    Look out for opportunities to be involved with ERM-related activities for your professional body, if available. These will look good on your CV as well as providing even more networking opportunities. These can include working parties, research groups and education-related roles. Although you may not feel able to provide specialist expertise, bear in mind that a willingness to work hard and to contribute time is often more highly valued than knowing all of the answers yourself
  • Sign up to any risk management newsletters that your professional body issues
  • Get involved at work
    Make it known that you are interested in risk management as part of your career progression plan. Go and talk to the people who already work in risk management within your organisation and/or have conversations with your clients about their own risk management framework (e.g. if you currently work in pensions: how has the employer integrated the pension scheme risks into its overall risk management program?). Look out for risk management related projects that you could get involved in at work, even if at first it is only on an occasional basis alongside your day-to-day responsibilities. You could even volunteer to start such a project yourself
  • Look for every opportunity
    As with any part of your personal development, you cannot rely on things just happening for you. You need to be proactive, both in terms of the suggestions made here and in looking out for job opportunities (whether internal or external).

There are many reasons people find becoming an actuary a satisfying and stimulating career:

  • The variety of work
    You can work in specialist areas of life insurance, general insurance, pensions, health and care insurance, investments and banking, or for any large organisation where risk management plays an important role, or for a consultancy advising on all sorts of different projects
  • An influential role
    The unique skills of actuaries are behind many high-level strategic decisions made by large companies and governments, and can have a positive impact on legislation, businesses and individuals
  • The rewards
    Salaries and benefits packages are excellent from the beginning. In fact, it's one of the highest paid professions
  • Intellectual satisfaction
    Actuaries are problem solvers, in tune with what's happening in business through their interpretation of statistical data and knowledge of social and economic systems
  • International opportunities
    Once you're qualified, actuarial skills can take you anywhere in the world
  • High standards
    Actuaries combine good business sense with safeguarding the public's financial interests, upholding the highest professional standards
  • A good life balance
    There is flexibility to balance professional commitments with personal interests.

So what are the core skills of an actuary:

  • Actuaries are skilled mathematicians, with training in various analytical methodologies, and an ability to quantify the range of financial effects of uncertain future events
  • Actuaries use assumptions as to future experience and many types of models to project a range of outcomes and their financial impact
  • Actuarial training is rigorous. It emphasises the analytical and objective aspects of financial decision making, with special recognition of the uncertainty of forecasts and projections
  • Certain member associations provide post-degree training and use examinations to validate learning. Other associations rely on university training to a greater or lesser extent. In most cases actuarial training represents the equivalent of two or more years of university level learning after an undergraduate university degree. Subjects studied as part of the training include probability, statistics, demographics, economics, actuarial models, financial engineering, insurance, pensions, investments and risk management
  • The actuarial profession has a high degree of integrity and professionalism, guided by a code of conduct, actuarial standards of practice and other levels of guidance, continuing education and enforcement by a disciplinary process
  • The basic core skills are relatively uniform worldwide and there seems to be consensus that actuaries should become more identifiable as risk professionals.

Summarised from the International Actuarial Association (IAA) Branding Taskforce, July 2014

It takes on average between three and six years to qualify as an actuary, dependent on which actuarial association you join – which itself will be dependent on the country in which you are based or wish to practise.

Like other top-ranked professions (such as law and medicine), one must pass a set of examinations to achieve professional status as an actuary. Every country has different requirements, but it generally requires you to demonstrate high academic standards, typically including a good degree. Please refer to your member actuarial association for more details.