Reaching Out to Our Next Generation

Earlier this month, I attended the Actuarial Students’ National Association Convention in Niagara Falls. The event, geared to Canadian actuarial students, combines educational seminars with social activities and a career fair. With over 400 actuarial candidates in attendance, the conference was a great way for me to touch base with our aspiring members.

I came away confident that the actuarial profession continues to attract motivated and engaged individuals, who are eager to learn and to apply their new-found skills. The conference left me with several questions about what the CAS should be doing to build better, more informed relationships with university students as they begin to make career decisions. Many of these questions will be directed to various CAS committees, but I would also be interested in hearing the perspectives of our broader community (particularly our newer members and our candidates) regarding the effectiveness of the CAS in advancing the message that the casualty actuarial field is one of tremendous opportunity.

  1. All of the attendees that I spoke with had successfully completed at least one actuarial exam. Yet, they didn’t understand the distinction between the SOA and the CAS (or the CIA in Canada) and they worried that they had precluded their opportunities by selecting the SOA exams. What, if anything, should the CAS be doing at the university level to convey the message that the preliminary examinations are jointly sponsored and that a candidate doesn’t have to “choose” among the educational bodies until they have successfully completed the first four exams?
  2. Many of the candidates had minimal understanding of what casualty actuaries do, and would greatly appreciate having casualty-oriented courses (or guest lectures by CAS members at their actuarial clubs). This message echoed that of several university professors, who believe that the CAS needs to be more visible on university campuses and in “selling” a casualty option. Might our university liaisons fill this void? Should we devote leadership or staff resources to this effort? What tools do they need to build in order to be effective?
  3. The SOA, through its Centers of Excellence, and the CIA, through its University Accreditation program, appear to be developing strong ties at the leadership level with key universities. These ties likely are strengthening candidate pipelines for these organizations and advancing targeted research as well. Does this leave the CAS at a competitive disadvantage in attracting the “best and the brightest?”
  4. Many of the attendees that I spoke with (both those still in university and recent graduates) asked about volunteer opportunities from which they could get to know the CAS better.  Apparently, the SOA offers several opportunities — research and other — to non-members. Should the CAS actively consider offering volunteer opportunities to actuarial candidates? Should a formal mentoring relationship be offered? If deemed feasible and desirable, how might the CAS “connect” with candidates to communicate such opportunities?

I welcome your comments and feedback on these issues. Please “Leave a Reply” below.


About Pat Teufel

Patricia A. Teufel was the 2011-12 President of the CAS.

16 Responses to Reaching Out to Our Next Generation

  1. avatar Chris Townsend says:

    Another route to reach out is via our local regional affiliates. A number of us from the Ontario Conference of Casualty Actuaries (OCCA) are doing just that with a series of seminars designed to cover both the casualty actuarial basics and a flavour of each presenters’ career. The presenters do include the CAS liaison to the University of Toronto and also feature information on how to apply for a scholarship offered by OCCA. Finally, we are attempting to make the presentations available to other universities by taking videos – we will see how that goes!

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      Chris: I agree that regional affiliates, or CAS members at companies that are “local”, would be a great way to reach out to university students. I also like your idea of videos — why not use the technology that is now so readily available to reach more potential candidates?

  2. avatar Jon Evans says:

    Did any of the Canadian students ask if the college class credits for exams (Canadian FEM) which the CIA is about to grant to them would be accepted by the CAS ?

    If so how did the CAS President answer them ?

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      There was a session hosted by the CIA at the meeting that discussed the CIA accreditation process. The CAS is currently reviewing the CIA accreditation process, using its existing waiver policy process.

  3. avatar Chad Gambone says:

    I really don’t see an issue with the CAS attracting people to the profession right now. The number of candidates in the exam system is not going down.

    I’m also not really convinced of any “competitive disadvantage” the CAS has with the SoA. Some people will find life/health work more interesting, and some will find casualty work more interesting, and they will self-separate for us. The biggest issue for the CAS is strengthening our own educational system, as candidate frustration by the lack of transparency in the process is quite high right now.

    People will always be attracted to the profession as long as it pays well and provides jobs with interesting things to work on. The CAS’ role is to educate people so that they can take on the challenges the P&C industry will have for actuaries in the future.

    Let the SoA waste money and effort on “marketing”. We aren’t selling interchangeable products here. It’s a career, and most people are going to take enough interest in their career to land in the place that is most beneficial to them.

    As far as our research committees, if there are students that are qualified to be on them, I don’t see any reason not to invite them to participate. It can only be beneficial to have additional perspectives.

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      Chad: Great to hear from you! In my experience, “selection” starts with the company that is willing to give you your first job — but things may have changed from when I was opting to go the CAS route.

    • avatar Kevin Madigan says:

      Chad, in your response you seem to imply that it makes sense for the health actuaries to be in the SOA. I actually think that P&C actuaries have more in common with health actuaries than do the other specialties in the SOA. In other words, it seems to me if we are going to continue to have two societies, then the life and pension folks should be in the SOA, the P&C and health guys should be in the CAS. I don’t know about the investment actuaries (CFA?).
      One could even argue that pension and disability work is more aligned with Workers Comp than with Life Insurance, so perhaps the pension people “belong” in the CAS.
      So why are the health (and pension) actuaries in the SOA? Could it be because historically the CAS has decided to “Let the SoA waste money and effort on “marketing” “, as you put it? If you go back to the beginnings of this organization you see that some of the founding members worked very hard to have CAS people involved in social insurance – but we let the SOA take that role (or perhaps we lost a battle, I am not sure).
      If we were to start our actuarial organizations from scratch today then I would say there should be only one. But clearly a merger is not a possibility any time soon, so we need to think about these issues Pat brings up.
      But, I am only an Associate and have no voice in the organization, so what do I know?

  4. avatar Michael Woods says:

    Having graduated only a few years ago, I can tell you that my experience was different. Most of my colleagues were aware of the CAS and thought of it as a highly desirable field within the actuarial profession. It was believed to have strong growth opportunities, good pay, and contain more math than other specialties. In this regard, it helped attract bright candidates and I had a few friends that chose P&C offers over others due to its prestige.

    I personally haven’t seen any evidence of this view among candidates changing. We recently posted an open position at our company for an entry level analyst and received close to 100 applications. The applications were well-qualified and diverse, with applicants ranging from tenured professors to fresh Yale graduates. Being that I work at a small company in a rural area, I was surprised to see such a large and diverse pool. I can only imagine the volume of applications that a large employer like State Farm or Allstate receives.

    I’m surprised to hear that students had trouble figuring out the SOA and CAS share preliminary exams. The first line of the Exam P/1 syllabus reads “The Probability Exam is called Exam P by the SOA and Exam 1 by the CAS.” In addition, the CAS logo is present on the preliminary pass/fail results that students receive after taking each exam. Finally, there is a wealth of information available for students to learn about the profession on the internet, including the BeAnActuary website and the Actuarial Outpost web forum. It seems to me that students confused about the distinction between the CAS and SOA exams could easily understand the differences with a little research (or just by reading the syllabus).

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      Michael: Thanks for posting. Always good to hear that the good news of the CAS is getting out to our candidates!

  5. avatar Enrique Valdez says:

    To Pat,
    In my country we have no casualty actuaries from which up and coming students can develop in to this field, so we all go to work in life insurance and pensions(we have plenty of those). My problem is that I really want to be a casualty actuary and quite frankly will settle for nothing less. I’ve spoken to casualty actuaries from overseas and some recommend I try to seek employment in an overseas country to benefit from the guidance of more experienced actuaries. But looking at the crisis that the world is currently in, I honestly do not see much opportunity for me to get an overseas job any time soon, and I am sure companies will be looking to hire their own over foreign candidates. A part of me believes that I can develop into a good actuary on my own accord, that through reading, research and dialogue with underwriters,claims staff and others that the necessary skills will come overtime, that through attending various seminars and taking exams that I can teach myself P & C actuarial science. I am not saying this will be easy, but I do believe it is not impossible. Edmond Halley didn’t have the guidance of anyone and he built the world’s first life table. The world’s first pilot never flew a plane before. Every type of risk was once “new business”. Can this be done? Can actuarial science be self-taught? Can the skill be gained overtime? Can I get my letters having not worked under a qualified actuary?

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      Enrique: The casualty actuarial field is actually a relatively new field. We will be celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2014. Practice has changed dramatically over the years, and promises to continue to respond to new opportunities. One of those opportunities is the growth of casualty practice in other parts of the world. It is quite common for emerging nations to recognize the need for life actuaries first, and then later to recognize the need for casualty practitioners. You are not unique! I would encourage you to take advantage of the on-line educational modules available through the CAS. I applaud your enthusiasm and commitment. Let me know how the CAS can help you to achieve your goals.

  6. avatar Shane Barnes says:

    One of the unique qualities of actuaries is they come from various disciplines. You don’t necessarily need an actuarial science degree to be successful. So the question is also relevant to candidates outside of actuarial disciplines.

    I came from a small liberal arts school in Nebraska. The majority of exposure I had while in college was the SOA. The NE Actuarial Club invited us to one of their meetings each year to network with other actuaries, but they were all SOA members. It wasn’t until I had an internship at a life company that my roommate (from Waterloo) told me I should look into the CAS since I enjoyed statistics more than finance.

    For the last six years I’ve lived in the east coast and the dynamic is very different. There are a plethora of P&C actuaries and most college students that I talk to know the difference between the two disciplines.

    In my experience, it seems that depending upon where you go to school and where you live in the country, you could have varying levels of exposure to the CAS. I think the biggest reason why I didn’t have a lot of CAS exposure in college was because there were only a handful of CAS members in Nebraska. But there were a lot of SOA actuaries.

    Reaching out to the smaller schools without a large actuarial science program can really benefit the students/candidates that don’t know a lot about the difference between the CAS and SOA.

    Also for the larger schools, I think it is important to have a strong working relationship with the chairs of the department. I always thought that Basic Ratemaking and Basic Reserving would be a great class for college students to take. The material is relatively straight forward and gives students an opportunity to see the basic actuarial work that casualty actuaries preform. Even opening an mentoring program for college students and early career professionals would be a great networking opportunity.

    I had the pleasure of sitting on the Candidate Liaison Committee for two years as a candidate representative. Over the course of my time on the committee, I learned a lot about the CAS and various committees within the CAS. Unfortunately, I think this is the only committee that CAS candidates can join, and it requires an application process. This means that everyone that wants to join the committee may not be accepted. I think allowing candidates to join other committees it will create awareness into the CAS and encourage the candidates, once they become members, to continue to volunteer on other committees.

    Increasing awareness for college students is only one piece of the puzzle. It is just as vital to encourage candidates to speak up and discuss their ideas/questions/concerns with the CAS. The candidates will one day be the future of the CAS.

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      Agree fully, we should not forget the “small schools” in our quest for a presence at the university level. The diversity of backgrounds that are resident in the CAS enhances the value of our Society.

  7. avatar Kevin Burke says:

    Regarding the lack of visibilty on campus I, and others in the company I work at, have spoken at local universities at the request of faculty members. We also make time in our schedule for students asking individually if they could visit the company to learn about the profession. A quick search of the directory shows over 300 CAS members in Ontario. Perhaps the students and/or their professors could show a little initiative and send an email to some of those members. I’m sure they’ll be more than gracious with their time.

    As far as wanting casualty oriented courses, that burden falls squarely on the faculty’s shoulders. Someone needs to search the literature, develop a class, pass it through curriculum committees, get it approved, etc. Again, there are plenty of resources available to someone that takes some initiative.

    This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Anecdotes from a group of over 400 Candian candidates shouldn’t be driving policy. From what I’ve seen there’s a glut of entry level applicants for P&C positions. That contradicts the perception that the CAS isn’t visible as candidates are finding and applying for those positions.

    On two separate issues, FEM and merging organizations, CAS members have overwhelmingly rejected intiatives from the CIA and SOA, respectively. They most likely feel the same way about centers of excellence and accrediation programs. The CIA, SOA, and universities want CAS endorsement not because the CAS can gain from those affiliations but because it adds to their brand and dilutes ours.

    • avatar Pat Teufel says:

      Kevin: Thanks for sharing. I agree that opportunities for aspiring actuaries abound in the casualty field. Most of us “chose” the casualty field because we gravitated to a casualty company (for whatever reasons) with our first jobs. I concur fully with your observation that policy should not be set by anecdotes (or by a single person); this is the responsibility of the CAS Board. This blog was intended only to stimulate discussion on a topic that might be of broad interest to the CAS membership (and might bring to the table some innovative ideas for how to strengthen our profession).

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