Quarterly Market Update
Welcome to my Spring 2010 market update. This is my fourth quarterly update so far in a series designed to keep you aware of what’s going on in the pensions actuarial recruitment market. My aim is to give an overview of the current actuarial recruitment market, identify any trends or developments in local markets throughout the UK, to give you an idea of the kinds of opportunities which are currently available and the salaries you may expect should you be interested in making a move in the next year.
Please scroll down to read the update in full, or use the quick links below to navigate to the most relevant sections.
If you are thinking about making a move now or in the next 12 months and would like to have an informal conversation to discuss your options in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact me on the details below. Alternatively please email me an up to date copy of your CV, and I will contact you at a convenient time.
Please note that I recruit for locations all across the UK & Ireland, including London, Reading, Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin & Belfast.
As always I am interested to hear your thoughts and comments on these emails, whether or not you find them useful, and what you would like to see included in future editions. If you would like to give feedback, please reply to this email with your comments, and I will try to incorporate any suggestions in future.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
James Turner | Senior Consultant
Direct: +44 (0)20 7019 8861
Is the market getting busier?
The increase in activity I reported at the end of last quarter has continued into 2010. We are currently aware of live actuarial vacancies with all of the Big 3 consultancies and with at least three of the Big 4 accounting firms, along with a number of smaller pensions consultancies. We have also been recruiting for some of the banks, a buyout company, and directly for a large pension scheme, all of which offered opportunities to move away from traditional consulting. I would say that where last year many companies were unable to recruit due to company wide recruitment freezes, this year most companies have the option to recruit if and when required and are now beginning to exercise this option. This means that as well as the most successful businesses recruiting to expand their teams, others are now recruiting to replace people who have resigned, moved internally or gone on maternity leave – people who may not have been replaced so quickly in 2009.
What does this mean to you? Well, whilst the market is improving slightly and there are more live vacancies at any one time than last year, there still tends to be very few options at any specific level or location. An extra couple of roles in Birmingham or Edinburgh will not be very helpful to people based in London for example, but it does make us recruiters busier! Therefore if you are trying to make a move, competition will remain very high. With more candidates available in the market our clients have been able to be much more particular over who they recruit, and their standards are higher. This means the process can take longer while they take their time over CVs, interviews will be more thorough and the whole process from the day you decide you would like a new job to the day you receive an offer tends to take longer. On top of this, the more ‘different’ you want your next role to be, the more difficult it will be and the longer it will take.
Is it difficult to move in a more competitive market?
The recruitment market for pensions actuaries is currently very tough. Fewer vacancies and more active candidates shift the market in favour of the employer, but these challenges should not get in the way of your career. If you are serious about making a move in the next 12 months, the best thing to do is contact me directly so that we can arrange a time to meet or speak over the phone in detail. However below is a brief guide to the key things to remember if making one of the following moves:
Pensions Consulting to Pensions Consulting
- Moving to a direct competitor is likely to be one of the simplest moves you can make, but you must still stand out above the rest.
- The obvious things to look at include academics, speed of qualification (or exam progress), communication skills and current experience.
- Your experience is likely to be similar to the competition, but think about what you have done differently. Have you pushed yourself to achieve more responsibility in a shorter period of time? Have you taken on more client responsibility than your peers? Have you become a technical expert in a particular area?
- If you can demonstrate that you are one of the best at what you do and are a high-achiever, you will find that more companies are interested in you, sometimes even those who are not actively recruiting.
- If you have ‘taken it easy’ and have not really gone above & beyond the call of duty, options are likely to be more limited. In this case remain realistic about your goals, and consider those companies which can help quickly bridge any gaps in your skills and experience before moving on to your first choice a few years further down the line.
- Moving to a competitor does not necessarily mean a sideways step. While the role of a pensions Actuary or Student doesn’t change drastically from one consultancy to the next, there will be some key differences which can affect your happiness and career development. Take the time to think about what you like & dislike and make sure your next role addresses any issues you may have had in the past.
Pensions Consulting to Investment Consulting
- Whilst a few companies will consider hiring pensions actuaries into their investment teams, they will always have a strong preference for hiring people with previous investment experience.
- If they can’t find someone with a pure investment background, the next best thing would be someone who has a mixture of pensions and investment experience. Therefore those people who have really pushed to try to gain experience internally first are likely to have a big advantage.
- Third choice would be a pure pensions candidate with a genuine interest in making the switch. Have you asked about a secondment to the investment team? Have you asked to help out on some investment projects? Do you do anything investment related in your spare time to really prove your interest? Is there anything you can put on your CV which makes you a better investment candidate than your colleagues? If the answers are no, you may struggle to convince an investment consulting team that it is really what you’ve always dreamed of doing.
- If you have a mainly pensions background, you will also need to act quickly when new roles come up. Waiting to see a role advertised before you put together a CV could mean they receive your application too late.
- Be realistic. If you don’t have the consulting skills or exam progress the investment consultancies are looking for, it would be better to move to a role where you can develop those skills first, even if it means remaining in pensions.
Pensions Consulting to Banking
- The banks are notoriously difficult to impress.
- They want to recruit the best of the best, and whilst the hours may be fairly long, a front-office role could see you earning bonuses well in excess of 100% of salary.
- They tend to only consider those who qualified or who are on track to qualify within 4-5 years of starting the exams.
- You will need at least a 2.1 but ideally a 1st class degree.
- Many roles require people with a very thorough understanding of the workings of UK pension schemes, and people with lots of valuations experience are likely to be favored slightly over a very corporate focused actuary.
- The interview process can involve several stages so you will need to be able to be flexible around when you can attend interviews.
- You also need to act very quickly – they can often have 5-10 interviews in the diary within a week of the role being released, so you have a better chance if you are already working with your recruitment consultant and have a CV ready to use.
- Roles tend to be at the nearly/newly qualified level as more specialist knowledge is usually required at more senior levels. No study support is provided for students as it is a separate career path.
Pensions Consulting to Insurance
- This is a popular request, but tends to be one of the most difficult moves to make due to less cross over with pensions experience.
- Quite often an internal move is easier than an external one, so you should begin there in most cases.
- Anyone moving from pensions to insurance should expect a pay cut, although it is not always necessary.
- Your reasons for wanting to move to insurance must be very good, and where possible you should provide evidence of having tried to make the move in the past and show off any related experience you have gained as a result.
- Keeping yourself as flexible as possible in terms of salary, role and location also helps. Being able to relocate to Birmingham for example could greatly increase your chances due to one large client we are recruiting for in the Midlands at the moment.
What are the latest vacancies available at my level?
Please click on the salary range which best describes your level. The salaries are intended to be a guide rather than the exact salary you could expect for each position, so please email me or give me a call if you would like more detail on any of the vacancies below.
St. Albans (20 minutes from Central London)
My client is one of the largest and most successful actuarial consultancies in the UK. I am now recruiting for a high-performing actuarial student to join the St. Albans Team. Initial responsibilities will include acting as a Service Manager on a number of clients, working on a mixture of trustee and corporate assignments. As your career progresses you can choose between keeping a mixture or specialising purely in either trustee or corporate work. The ideal candidate will have an excellent academic background, previous pensions consulting experience and is likely to have completed at least half of the actuarial exams. My client is looking to recruit good people, and can offer the right role to fit with your aspirations. This means that you may have given up the actuarial exams, or you may wish to focus on people management or more technical aspects rather than client consulting. Whatever you are looking for in a role they may be able to provide it so long as you have something to offer them in return. St. Albans is just 20 minutes on the train from London St. Pancras and there are benefits of being based outside the City.
My client is a niche investment consultancy that is rapidly growing and it is this growth that has led to the need to expand its team. You will be involved in supporting client managers to ensure day to day management of client portfolios and will act as a first point of contact for ad-hoc queries. You will also be exposed to a wide variety of investment topics and will train to become a client manager in future. This opportunity would suit either an existing investment analyst or a pensions consultant looking to switch to investments. This is a fantastic opportunity to get significant client contact at an early stage and also to fast track your career. The successful candidate is likely to have relevant experience gained within a consultancy environment and must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Candidates wishing to switch from a pensions consulting background should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the investment market, and the ability to distinguish yourself from your peers and really prove your interest in investment will be an advantage.
Part-Qualified Pensions Actuary – Corporate Consulting
London, Reading, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds or Glasgow
My client has quadrupled in size in London over the last 5 years and is looking to continue this amazing growth over the coming year. As a result it needs to hire a number of ambitious Pensions Students to support this growth. The work will be purely corporate focused so the work will be fast moving, very project related and will include a variety of assignments from preparing accounting numbers to giving advice on buy-in/buy-outs as well as general strategy advice and advising on M&A deals. You would gain responsibility extremely early and be expected to project manage your workload and clients yourself. This is a really exciting time in the company’s development. They are looking for candidates with good exam records, strong communication skills, and an aptitude and ability to get things done efficiently, to budget and on time. Similar positions are also available in the locations above, with the regional offices able to offer a mixture of corporate and trustee focused projects. Opportunities for future progression are exceptional and purely dependant on your performance.
Senior Actuarial Student
London or Surrey
My client is one of the 'Big 3' pensions consultancies with several offices based throughout the UK. You will enjoy the opportunity to work on some of the largest pension schemes where you will gain unrivalled training and experience on a wide variety of pensions issues. There is also the potential to gain exposure to other areas of the business including investment or pensions buy-out to further enhance your knowledge. You will enjoy an excellent mix of trustee and corporate consulting, and by entering at the 'Senior Student' level you will have responsibility for checking the work of others and helping more junior colleagues. The ideal candidate will have made consistent progress with the actuarial exams and will be approaching qualification. You should also have previous pensions consultancy experience including checking the work of others.
In-House Pensions Actuary – Liability Management
My client is looking for a nearly or newly qualified actuary or someone who has decided to give up the exams to help model the liabilities of the scheme and to highlight the risks associated. You will also be involved with meeting with the investment banks and other third party providers to asses what liability risk management products are out there and can be used by the scheme. You will need to provide regular management information including ongoing funding and solvency reports. In return you will have the opportunity to do something a little different, and you will enjoy more comfortable working hours and a better work/life balance. The successful candidate will have an excellent understanding of the liabilities of large UK pension schemes, and strong IT/systems skills. Time off to study will not be provided, so the ideal candidate will be a nearly or newly qualified actuary or someone who has given up the exams.
Move from Pensions to Life
One of our clients is now looking to recruit a large number of actuaries into its Life team based just outside Birmingham. There is a mixture of permanent & contract roles available and strong candidates from a pensions background will be considered. To be successful you must be willing to work in (or relocate to) Birmingham, and whilst experience does not need to be entirely relevant, you need to demonstrate excellent career progression in your previous roles and have excellent reasons for wishing to make the switch. Salaries will be competitive but will require a drop in your current salary as you will need 6-12 months of training. Applications will be considered from candidates with all levels of experience but competition is extremely high. You will need to stand out against 20-40 other candidates who are likely to be applying for the same role. There will not be an exact job spec as it will depend on the individual entirely - please contact me if you are keen to have an informal conversation to discuss the possibilities further.
Assistant Manager/ Manager – Corporate Consulting
London, Reading, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds or Glasgow
My client has quadrupled in size over the last 5 years in London and is looking to continue this amazing growth over the coming year. As a result it needs to hire as number of ambitious nearly/newly qualified Pensions actuaries to support this growth. Entering at Assistant Manager or Manager level, your role will be very corporate focused (100% if in London) so will be fast moving, very project related and will include a variety of assignments from preparing accounting numbers to giving advice on buy-in/buy-outs as well as general strategy advice and advising on M&A deals. You would gain responsibility extremely early and be expected to project manage your workload and clients yourself. This is a really exciting time in the company’s development. Candidates should have good exam records, strong communication skills, and an aptitude and ability to get things done efficiently, to budget and on time. Positions are available in the locations above, with the regional offices able to offer a mixture of corporate and trustee focused projects. Opportunities for future progression are exceptional and purely dependant on your performance. Managers are likely to be qualified and have previous corporate consulting experience.
Nearly/Newly Qualified Actuary
My client, a large actuarial consulting firm based in Belfast, is looking to recruit a number of nearly / newly qualified actuaries. Successful candidates will work as part of a team supporting more experienced consultants and scheme actuaries in all aspects of pensions consulting and actuarial work for a number of clients. You will ideally have previous pensions consulting experience within a similar environment. This role is also suitable for people who are no longer studying for the actuarial exams who have the right level of experience. If you are studying, you should be making strong progress towards qualifying as an actuary (perhaps aiming to qualify in the next couple of years), or already be a qualified actuary.
Market Risk Manager
My client is looking for a pensions or insurance actuary to join the market risk team. Market risk is responsible for managing market and fair value risk. The focus is not on restricting people from taking risk but on encouraging risk to be taken where it is most optimal given the rewards and capital consumption. This bank has seen a substantial increase in the number of transactions that involve some form of longevity risk and is looking to increase the team that deals with this specific area. The ideal candidate will be a newly or recently qualified actuary from either a pensions or life background. Specific longevity experience is desirable but by no means essential, more important is someone with strong quantitative skills and a mathematical background who is a strong communicator and who is able to pick up new concepts and apply them very quickly.
Manager, Corporate Consulting
London, Reading, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow
My client has quadrupled in size over the last 5 years and is looking to continue this amazing growth over the coming year. As a result it needs to hire as number of ambitious qualified Pensions actuaries at Manager level to support this growth. The work will be very corporate focused (100% in London) so will be fast moving, very project related and will include a variety of assignments from preparing accounting numbers to giving advice on buy-in/buy-outs as well as general strategy advice and advising on M&A deals. You would gain responsibility extremely early and be expected to project manage your workload and clients yourself. This is a really exciting time in the company’s development. Successful candidates will have qualified fairly quickly, have strong communication skills and an aptitude and ability to get things done efficiently, to budget and on time. Opportunities for future progression to Senior Manager and beyond are exceptional and purely dependant on your individual performance.
Senior Pensions Actuary
My client has developed a new and innovative risk transfer solution for the global pensions industry and is now about to embark on the next phase of growth. It has already launched in the UK and plans to expand across Europe, the US and the Far East over the next 6-18 months. As a result, it is keen to hire a Senior Pensions Actuary to take charge of arguably the most critical team in the company. Your role will include responsibility for managing a team of 9 staff, although this is expected to grow rapidly over the next 6-12 months. The team is responsible for in depth UK pension scheme analyses to allow them to customise their risk management systems to exactly match each scheme’s liabilities. You will have ultimate responsibility for the sign off on each scheme analysis and will also be involved in product development and supporting the geographic expansion of the business. The ideal candidate will be a qualified actuary with substantial experience of pension scheme regulations and strong technical skills and will have specific experience of liability modelling and/or monitoring and examining the outputs of such models. You will also need experience of managing and motivating teams to cope with multiple work streams and priorities. Good communication skills and a desire to really test yourself in a new and innovative environment are also essential qualities.
Actuarial Director – M&A
Rapid growth and a pick up in M&A work mean my client is looking to hire a senior actuary to join at Director level with significant future opportunities to become a partner. The ideal candidate will have significant M&A experience and be a strong business developer and proven deliverer of exceptional client service, including delivering projects on time and to budget in tight time constraints. The work will be almost entirely M&A related, although you may also get involved in other corporate consulting projects. There are very realistic opportunities to progress to full partnership in a short space of time as all promotions are based purely on merit and delivering against specific objectives.
Local Regions – at a glance
- One large accounting firm is continuing to expand across all levels in London, and another is recruiting for recently qualified Managers. There roles can be particularly attractive for candidates who have been limited to mainly trustee consulting in the past who would like to gain significant corporate experience.
- 2 of the Big 3 Consultancies are recruiting in their regional offices just outside of Greater London. The locations can make these roles more difficult to recruit for than a City vacancy, but at least opportunities are there to join the top firms.
- The public sector is still a very attractive proposition amongst candidates. One of my public sector clients is currently recruiting for students and qualified pensions actuaries, with further roles anticipated later this year with another client. Another non-departmental government body is currently interviewing pensions actuaries for a unique opportunity to combine pensions with Solvency II development.
- One Accountancy firm is recruiting in Bristol following a successful year of growth in 2009. There is at least one student vacancy with a large consultancy in Bristol, and an opportunity for a high flying recent qualifier to become a future Partner also in the South West.
- Once again the Midlands remains the quietest of the UK regions. We are recruiting for one senior actuarial student position in Birmingham and are aware of a recent senior hire – opportunities are there for very good people but candidates need to be proactive. A large Life insurer in the midlands will consider offering pensions actuaries the chance to switch to insurance over the next 12 months.
- I have not seen many new vacancies in Leeds or Manchester this quarter. Opportunities still exist to join a top accounting firm from the Nearly/ Newly level through to Senior Managers, and high performing candidates at student or qualified levels may persuade a consultancy or two to consider them for interview despite lower demand.
- The Scottish market has been busier than it was in the last quarter. There are still a number of candidates readily available in the market following one or two redundancy exercises and office closures. There are also some very good candidates currently in work who would consider a move for a very good opportunity. I am aware of 3 or 4 new actuarial student vacancies in the last 2 months, and of a recent qualified level hire in Glasgow. One Life company in Edinburgh will consider interviewing pensions actuaries too.
Actuarial Salary Guide
We have now completed our 2010 salary guide for all sectors in which Goodman Masson operate. The full salary guide is available upon request, and you can see the Actuarial Salary Guide instantly by clicking here.
Our other sectors include:
- Accountancy & Finance
- Banking & Financial Services
- Internal Audit
- Management Consultancy
- Public Practice
- Public Sector & Not for Profit
Please email me if you would like a copy of our full salary guide.
In future I hope to be in a position to run a full salary survey, involving collecting more specific data from a larger sample. This would require cooperation from many of our clients and candidates so if this is something you would like to be involved in, please let me know.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
I thought long and hard about whether it was appropriate to include this in my market update. I came to the conclusion that anything I can do for charity is worthwhile, so here is my story in brief.
In January, Goodman Masson announced that they are sending a team of 8 employees on a once in a lifetime challenge to raise money for a worthy cause. Following a vote on a shortlist of 4 challenges ranging from walking the length of the Great Wall of China to building a school in a disadvantaged country, the challenge was set: to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in aid of the charity ‘Help for Heroes’.
Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 5,895m (19,340ft) and is one of the largest volcanoes ever to break through the Earth's crust. It sits on the northern border of Tanzania, overlooking Kenya, and just over 200 miles south of the Equator. Our climb will take place over 7 incredibly tough days, with the last day involving 12-15 hours of hiking in subzero temperatures.
As a group we aim to raise over £34,000 for Help for Heroes. I will be donating a large percentage of my personal target myself to cover the costs of the trip, so any money donated by you will go 100% directly to charity. If you are interested in reading the full details, please visit www.justgiving.com/jtjt where you can make a donation.
Thank you very much for your support.
About Goodman Masson
Our Actuarial Division
Our Actuarial Division has established itself as a market leader in the sector, working with a wide range of clients, from accountants to consulting firms, from reinsurers and direct insurers to friendly societies, throughout the UK and Ireland and also in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific.
Our success has been achieved through a consistent strategy of building real knowledge of the sector's particular characteristics and demands; on which we develop and maintain long term relationships with our clients. The depth of our consultants’ understanding lets clients concentrate on clarifying their particular needs rather than spending time explaining the general context, saving time and delivering better results.
Goodman Masson is the largest Independent Financial Recruiter in the UK and has been recruiting professionally qualified accountants and other finance professionals for over 17 years.
Goodman Masson covers all levels of recruitment from non-qualified to the mid, senior level executive recruitment markets operating on a search, advertised selection, contingent permanent and temporary basis. In addition we have built a separate Finance Interim business.
Our main area of specialism is Finance which includes separate teams operating within Accountancy, Tax, Audit, Risk and Treasury disciplines. In addition we have specialist business areas concentrating on Actuarial and Legal. Our teams are split across the Banking & Financial Services, Commerce, Public and Not for Profit and Private Practice markets.
Our growth has been built around our knowledge and expertise within the Finance markets and in 2009 we successfully worked with 991 separate organisations, 82% of which have worked with Goodman Masson more than once. Our client portfolio ranges from the FTSE 100 (67 out of 100) to small entrepreneurial start ups and from Government bodies through to independent media houses.
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