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13.04.2021

Resource Management at APR – balancing supply and demand

Resource management, and balancing supply and demand relating to APR’s actuarial team, has been one of our biggest challenges in the past couple of years.  Despite growing the size of our actuarial staff team from around 35 to over 60 in that period, there have been times in which we’ve found it difficult to meet client demand.  In this short article, I discuss the challenges we’ve faced in resource management (which may well mirror some of those you face with your own teams), how we’ve looked to rise to those challenges and how we deal with the situation when resourcing risks crystallise.

Managing demand risk

Whatever the size of team, there is always the risk of client demand exceeding our available resources.  Our approach to mitigating this risk has included:

Managing supply risk

As implied above, the more significant issue for us in the past few years has been insufficient availability of resources.  However, we’re not complacent against the reverse scenario.  This has underpinned our measured, organic growth.  2013 was our toughest year since we founded APR, due to the significant delay to Solvency II implementation and the ongoing impact of the financial crisis.  In retrospect, we see it as a positive as we demonstrated to both ourselves and our staff that the business is resilient in a downturn, and almost by necessity, made us accelerate our mitigations for when this risk next crystallises.  Those mitigations include:

Demand risk crystallising

Despite the actions outlined above, some risk remains as it is impossible to perfectly match supply and demand.  A number of client managers reading this may have approached us and been informed that we don’t have the capacity to currently help them.  This is never done lightly; a high proportion of our clients have worked with us almost continuously for a long time and it’s never easy to say we’re unable to provide a solution when such clients approach us for additional support.

Some principles that we apply when this arises:

Quality is King

Whenever client demand exceeds capacity, there can be a temptation to loosen quality thresholds to meet demand.  As most of our actuarial recruitment is at graduate level (an area in which we typically have 700 or more applicants each year), this is a tap that is relatively easy to turn off and on by changing the quality threshold.  However, we have always resisted the temptation to treat quality as a recruitment lever.  For example, we have never practiced quotas in terms of vacancies to fill – we would simply take fewer if we were unable to recruit enough resources of the required calibre.  Our reputation, and the success of our business, has been built on the quality of our people and this is something on which we are not willing to compromise.

In summary, by continuing our growth and developments outlined above, we hope to further reduce the number of occasions where we cannot meet client demand. Ultimately, though, we have taken the view that it’s best for both us and our clients for us to occasionally be clear that we are unable to help, or can only provide a different form of solution, rather than take actions that could compromise valued long-standing relationships.

Gary Heslop

April 2021