APR Consulting: 2019 Review
At APR, we have built our reputation as providers of interim actuarial resources, and to many this is what we’re principally known for. It is less well known that since 2010, we have also worked with clients to successfully deliver work on a consulting basis.
I joined APR towards the end of 2018 to lead the expansion of our consulting business and in this article I will:
- Outline our consulting service.
- Talk about our key asset: our talent.
- Reflect on the progress we have made during 2019 and look forward to 2020 and beyond.
Outline of our consulting service
APR has an established presence in the interim actuarial resource market and our clients know and trust us to provide high-quality people who are a good fit to their resourcing needs. However, some client needs can be better met through a consulting model.
Our consulting service differs from providing interim resource in some important ways:
- An APR partner constructs a team and then manages the work.
- The focus is on reducing client workloads and delivering solutions, rather than providing resource for the client to manage.
- We look to be involved at an early stage in a project where we can provide advice and challenge, working with our clients to understand problems and shape solutions.
Clients who have only previously worked with us on a resourcing basis sometimes query why they would want to engage us on a consulting basis. It is a good challenge, and the optimal engagement model for any situation is context-specific, depending both on the client need and on the availability within our team.
Where the client is comfortable retaining the management overhead, for example when there is a vacancy in a client team (such as maternity cover, project backfill) then resourcing remains the better engagement model.
But there are other scenarios for which the consulting model is more appropriate. Some of the benefits to engaging with us on this basis include:
- Reduced client workloads: The primary advantage is that we are able to take as much as possible of the burden of a problem from you and your teams, leaving you to focus on other priorities.
- Expertise: Consulting allows you to access, albeit on a part-time basis, the expertise and experience of our senior team who are not available in a resourcing context. Also, some projects require high demand, low availability expertise (such as R, SQL and Prophet development capability) – the expertise is not usually required “full-time” and, under the consulting model, we are able to flexibly tap into this expertise in our wider team as and when it is required by your project.
- Agility: Where we have already worked with clients on a consulting basis and have an established relationship with their procurement teams, we are able to respond rapidly to client needs. Resourcing lead times can be lengthy because of client resourcing processes.
Currently we have around 50 permanent actuarial employees, ranging from junior students up to our senior actuaries and partners. Although there are significant differences between our consulting and resourcing services, the key constant is the quality of the people we bring to the work:
- We are highly selective. Each year, more than 500 graduates apply for actuarial positions with APR, of whom we employ about 1%. Our selection process explicitly tests for the key attributes we feel makes good actuaries, including challenging mathematical problems and presentation skills.
- We provide excellent initial and ongoing training. The continued training and development of all our staff is a core aspect of our ethos. New staff typically receive twelve weeks of intensive training which is highly practical, spans a wide range of areas, and includes using our in-house licenses of leading industry software packages.
- We have established trust with our clients. Our clients have confidence that we will provide high-quality staff with the right skills, who make a valuable contribution from their first day on a project.
Consulting “Sweet Spot”
When I meet with clients, I am frequently asked about the types of projects our team are best suited to. Whilst it remains the case that we would consider any project where we could ensure good outcomes for the client, our sweet spot has proven to involve some or all of the following:
- Smaller teams of up to five people.
- Technology and modelling. We have significant experience and capability in this area, and many projects tap into this.
- We are often involved in implementation projects where the client has already decided on a course of action but do not have the internal capacity to implement.
- Transformation is a wide-ranging theme shared by many of the projects we support clients with. Such projects could include developing models, tools and board packs to support strategic decisions on the future of the organisation; or designing and building automated solutions to business change problems crystallised by regulatory change.
- Documentation. APR has been involved in a number of documentation exercises since 2010, from setting up documentation frameworks (eg Solvency II), to producing new or refreshing existing documentation. Our actuarial documentation experts have developed ways of working efficiently with client subject matter experts which minimise disruption to your team, allowing them to focus on your other priorities.
2019 reflection, 2020 and beyond
On a personal note, I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year with APR. Prior to joining, I was a consumer of actuarial consulting and resourcing services at a large life insurer. I used APR’s resourcing service widely in that organisation and I was impressed by the quality of staff and in particular how quickly they added value. This year has brought home how the model of targeting excellent graduates, coupled with the right programme of ongoing development, pays dividends for ours and our clients’ businesses.
Since starting to market our consultancy offering more widely this year, we have been able to support a wide range of clients on projects of different types, durations and practice areas, exceeding our internal goals on both business development and staff exposure fronts.
We plan to continue this careful and controlled expansion in 2020, with a continued focus on projects for which we can ensure good outcomes for our clients and our business. Other plans for 2020 include:
Dublin: we are looking carefully at expanding beyond London and Edinburgh, and in particular how we can best support increasing client demand in Dublin.
People: our graduate recruitment programme continues to deliver, and a number of high-quality candidates have already accepted offers to start in 2020. In addition to the organic ongoing development of staff, to facilitate the continued expansion of our consulting business, we are considering some senior additions to the team.
Technology: continues to excite us and in particular the opportunities it presents to both ours and our clients’ businesses. We intend to expand our offering in this space.