CAAs at APR – our experiences so far
It is now over a year since APR employed our first CAA-level Actuarial Analysts, so we thought this would be a good time to share our experiences, look at how our CAA cohort might develop and, not too shamelessly, give a bit of a sales pitch to potential clients and analyst recruits.
Background to CAA qualification
The Certified Actuarial Analyst (“CAA”) qualification was originally devised in 2014, but real momentum was provided by the creation of CAA Global late in 2016, a joint venture between the UK IFoA and the US Society of Actuaries.
The rationale behind the new qualification was straightforward: given the strong (and likely growing) demand for actuarial practitioners, but the high entry requirements and tough professional exams for the fellowship, there were clear benefits to opening up the actuarial profession to a wider population; in particular to those who are technically-minded and have strong core numerical skills, but perhaps don’t have the time and cost resources, required mathematical flair or some of the wider skill sets to qualify and work as an FIA.
Within this fairly high-level concept there is clearly scope for employers to make use of CAA-level staff in a wide range of areas; and of course many actuarial students working towards the FIA qualification are already employed as Actuarial Analysts.
UK employers are able to offer the CAA qualification to employees under a government-badged apprenticeship scheme, which explains a focus on the post A-level leaver population as potential recruits, but the profession is also keen to attract those already in the industry (perhaps in administrator positions) who want to take on a more technical and challenging role, and a wider pool of graduate entrants.
CAAs at APR
At APR, we saw that the creation of the CAA qualification presented a real opportunity for growth and added diversity.
We like to think that over ten years of recruiting graduate actuarial students we have got pretty good at recognising strong potential, combined with a core technical ability. So it made perfect sense to extend our business model to a wider pool of people, and we took the decision a couple of years ago to recruit at CAA level. The idea would then be to leverage the training which has been so successful at the graduate actuarial student level, and provide this to our Actuarial Analysts to create an additional tier of staff available to clients at highly competitive rates.
Such an approach was not without risks; key to our thinking was the need to ensure that we didn’t dilute the quality of our team, and in particular the perception of that quality among our clients. This has meant the selection process has been of crucial importance, but also that we couldn’t compromise in terms of the training we provide – so our CAA staff get very similar training to our graduate associates (as well, of course, as full support through their professional exams).
Another point we decided at an early stage was that, for those interested, we very much see the CAA qualification as the first step on the ladder to eventual FIA status. Although not everybody has that ambition, and we don’t insist on it, we certainly aim to recruit those with the calibre and potential to succeed as FIAs.
We see this as a key element in our offering to the brightest post A-level students as it allows us to market our CAA programme as still allowing individuals to aspire to the ultimate level they could achieve had they gone to study for a university degree and entered the profession by the traditional FIA pathway, but instead gaining valuable actuarial work experience and without the usual levels of student debt.
One of the key challenges in recruiting at CAA level is where to look. In a sense, the pool of those interested in, and capable of, applying for FIA roles is fairly self-limited, but the universe of potential CAA recruits is naturally much larger. One of our concerns was that once we advertised at school-leaver level we would be inundated with an unmanageable volume of unsuitable applications.
It transpires that has not been the case, and we have been impressed with the quality of the applications we have received. Perhaps that’s partly to do with the fact that we are a relatively small company rather than one of the large household names; being alphabetically near the top of the list in the IFoA directory of CAA employers helps as well to attract those who have done their research.
Our application and selection follows the same process as that for our graduate-level actuarial positions, with the aim that it should be straightforward, engaging and relevant. The only significant difference is that the written assessments have a slightly less challenging technical element.
What our clients think
Another risk in taking on staff at this level was that there just wouldn’t be the demand from clients. We had been sounding out clients on their interest, both in terms of engaging permanent CAA-level staff within their in-house teams, and also in taking on APR CAA staff for short-term projects. It’s fair to say that there was a wide range of views, from little knowledge or interest through to a high level of enthusiasm.
Based on this we initially recruited two Actuarial Analysts, Chris and Morgan, who joined us in May last year. Both showed great composure and potential for technical strength throughout the assessment process and this was borne out in the initial period of training, in which both quickly grasped the complex technical aspects and demonstrated excellent wider ability.
We therefore had no hesitation when, admittedly slightly earlier than anticipated, two of our long-standing clients wanted to take on Chris and Morgan for projects within a month of their staring at APR; one on a data transformation project, one working on finance process improvement. Both are now on their second client projects, and feedback has been excellent. The fact that clients put them in the same bracket as any other APR staff is evidence enough to us that the venture has been successful. Equally pleasingly, without wanting to jinx them both, Chris and Morgan have sailed through the exams, and are due to complete the CAA qualification in the October sitting.
Our experience with Chris and Morgan, and the growing number of conversations we have had with clients, both existing and prospective, have reinforced our view that there is strong and growing demand for high-calibre analysts at this level to be available for interim projects. We have been recruiting further to meet this demand, and have already taken on three further analysts, with the anticipation that we will continue to grow this pool.
One idea which particularly interests us is using our pool of analysts to undertake projects outside of the traditional sphere of actuarial work. We have long been of the view that actuaries and actuarially trained people have skillsets which are in demand far beyond the insurance sector, for example in data analytics and non-financial modelling. We have undertaken client projects in both areas, but in truth the demand for our existing core services has given us less scope to develop these propositions than we would have liked. We see our CAA-level staff as being key to leveraging the technical skill sets we can offer and making them available to a far wider market, at a cost which is attractive even in highly price-sensitive sectors.
And so now for the plug – if you have, or are expecting, a project requirement for strong technical people at a price below what you would normally pay for a student actuarial contractor or consultant; or are a non-financial firm that could use technically proficient people on short-term projects at a highly competitive cost; or simply want to find out more about our experience of recruiting at CAA level, with a view to adding CAA analysts to your own in-house teams… then we would be delighted to talk to you – please contact one of the APR partners.
Anyone interested in exploring more about CAA opportunities at APR should see the https://aprllp.com/working-for-apr/actuarial-analyst/ page on our website.