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What is an actuary?
You could call the actuary a security expert and at the same time a product developer: He is responsible for the development of calculation models and forecasts, assessments and risk analyses, mostly in connection with insurance and pension models.
Actuaries collate and assess huge amounts of data. The findings from this are the basis for decision-making for corporate management. Compared to a controller, the actuary’s perspective on the figures is more long-term, while the controller considers shorter periods of time.
Where actuaries are active
Actuaries are mainly in demand in the insurance industry, in banks, ministries, authorities, building societies and investment companies as well as in related sectors, but auditing companies also need their knowledge to advise clients with a clear eye.
Life insurance, accident insurance, substitute health insurance and liability insurance must appoint a “responsible actuary” who has demonstrable knowledge of actuarial mathematics and has gained professional experience.
He evaluates past data with a view to the future. His surveys are capable of identifying long-term risks and pointing them out to companies in good time. Legislation, legal and competitive developments are included in his assessments and provide information on how contributions, contract terms and products should be designed in order to ensure the company’s success. He presents these important conclusions in a comprehensible and convincing way to department heads and the management, in order to then discuss which next steps are possible.
Nowadays, actuaries have to be IT-savvy, because they cannot gain any insights without merging the data from different systems. Ideally, an actuary has the ability to program or quickly learn new software.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: successfully completed degree, eg in (business) mathematics, (business) computer science, economics, physics
- Starting salary: €48,000
- Top salary: €98,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Team leader, self-employment
What does an actuary do?
- Conception and further development of actuarial calculation models
- Prepare actuarial and adequacy reports
- Development of forecasting models
- Development of pricing models (contribution regulations)
- Identification of internal and external data sources
- Support of corporate management with regard to value and risk aspects (Solvency II)
- Advice on insurance asset management
- Support of risk management based on risk modelling
- Digitization and processing of big data and their evaluation
- if necessary programming of data analysis software
How do you become an actuary?
There are several courses available to take up this profession, but a degree is a must: Subjects such as mathematics, business mathematics, computer science, economics are available, and physicists sometimes also become actuaries.
Career starters often complete part-time training to become an »Actuary DAV« (German Association of Actuaries), where they not only deepen their actuarial knowledge, but also specialize in an industry.
Requirements for actuaries in brief:
- Successfully completed studies, e.g. (business) mathematics, (business) computer science, economics, physics
- In-depth knowledge of statistics and probability theory
- Part-time training as an actuary DAV with industry-specific specialization or as actuarial expert for pensions (CERA)
- Professional experience in insurance (professional pension institutions, health, life insurance, property or reinsurance)
- fluent knowledge of German and English
- confident handling of MS Office
What does an actuary earn?
up to €98,000
An actuary has already specialized through his studies and therefore starts with a higher gross annual salary than many other academics, namely between 48,000 and 58,000 €. With increasing professional experience, training and responsibility, the salary can increase to €98,000 per year. Of course, the location and industry of the company also play a role.
What do you expect from the actuary?
The actuary loves data volumes and their evaluations. Because of his analytical skills, it is easy for him to make forecasts for the future. He is able to independently define the company fields to be analyzed. His quick comprehension and his confidence in presenting enable him to prepare complex forecasts, recommendations and the results of his analyzes for the company management and colleagues and to obtain all the necessary data.
The ability to work in a team is particularly important for actuaries in larger companies, because they work across departments. In international corporations and auditing firms, prospective actuaries should be able to withstand stress and enjoy traveling in order to work with subsidiaries or clients on site.
Opportunities for advancement as an actuary
Overall, the career opportunities are promising: After completing your studies and during your first job, you can take the exam to become a DAV actuary or a “Certified Enterprise Risk Actuary” (CERA) at the German Association of Actuaries, which increases your chances of advancement. The DAV offers further training courses and certifications.
After several years of professional experience, an actuary can take on personnel responsibility and be promoted to team leader in larger companies. As a team leader, he will distribute the various tasks such as pricing, contribution design, risk management, IT connection, etc. to his employees, who will combine and evaluate the results.
Another career step is the department head of an actuary, which is often held by a “responsible actuary”. This must have at least three years of professional experience as an actuary and a professional qualification.
In insurance companies, an actuary is also often a member of the board of directors or one level below.
Actuaries usually earn the highest salary when they start their own business with a consulting firm, because companies buy in the knowledge of specialists on a project-by-project or permanent basis. Actuaries are particularly successful here if, in addition to extraordinary specialist knowledge, they also have a talent for acquisition.
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