The following questions are answered by Akshun Geetesh, Secretary of The Actuarial Club of India for TheCAStory.

1. Who can become an Actuary?

  • Anyone who has a keen interest in Numbers / Mathematics!
  • The basic requirement for starting your Actuarial Career is that you should be good with your mathematical and statistical concepts when you start.
  • This is a tailor-made profession for guys who love math and analysis!
  • You could start your Actuarial journey after 12th Standard same as Chartered Accountancy(CA).
  • Really difficult to pass if you don’t understand basics such as integration or differentiation which you usually learn post 10th
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2. If someone wants to pursue Actuary – from where do they do it, which institutes?

There are 4 well-known institutes through which one could appear for Actuarial papers:

  •  Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI),
  • Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA) [Well recognized globally],
  • Society of Actuaries, US (SoA) and
  • Casualty Actuarial Society, US (CAS)
  • There are many more local institutes spread worldwide. All of the Institutes are regulated by the body International Actuarial Association (IAA) – IAA is a worldwide association of local professional actuarial associations.
  • For starting with Indian Institute (IAI), one needs to clear Actuarial Common Entrance Test (ACET), once you clear it, your journey begins! However, from the UK Institute (IFoA) there is no entrance, one could start writing their exams directly!

3. So how does one decide from which Institute to pursue Actuarial studies?

  • Well, it’s a personal choice. Initially, most people opt for – Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI). However, many students from India pursue their Actuarial Studies from both – IAI and Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA).
  • IAI adopts the same study material as IFoA (UK), except for practical papers. So, they both are same.
  • IAI conduct its exams 2 times in a year somewhere in March and Sept while IFoA conducts it 2 times in a year somewhere in April and end of sept, so the dates never clash.
  • When it comes to pursuing studies from Society of Actuaries, US (SoA) or Casualty Actuarial Society, US (CAS) – very few people from India do their studies from CAS or SOA but there are some people I know who have attained their fellowship from CAS. So basically, if someone is working for US market from India as a consultant or has interest in working in the US (though you could work in the US with qualifications from IAI / IFoA as well), then only one should go for CAS/ SoA in my opinion.
  • You could move to any country with this qualification. There is a dearth of Actuary professionals in many countries, so many experienced professionals are able to relocate to other countries easily.

4. What is the total cost to be an Actuary from IAI and IFoA (UK)?

  • Not as reasonable as CA papers from India but not as costly as CFA (US) papers or even professional degrees like an MBA.
  • Considering I am writing every paper from IAI, it takes me around 5 years to complete it, to pass every single paper in one attempt and don’t spend anything extra on materials, it would cost me exactly around Rs 1,30,000.
  • Expect double of this from (IFoA).

5. Where are IAI/IFoA exams conducted?

  • You could select your city or nearby cities where exams are conducted by IAI or IFoA.
  • Exams are conducted in multiple cities in India, not just Tier 1!
  • Also, exams are conducted 2 times a year from both the institutes around March-April and September-October.
  • As I mentioned earlier, people generally have membership from both institutes, so suiting your needs, you could attempt different papers from a different institute or same paper twice (just to make sure you pass from either of them).

6. So let’s compare this with Chartered Accountancy (CA) course. CA has 3 levels – CPT, IPCC and CA Final. How many levels does an Actuary exam have from IAI?

  • As mentioned earlier, if you start from Indian Institute (IAI), you need to give an entrance test (ACET), which is not necessary with IFoA (UK).
  • The Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI) regulates the education & training of actuaries in India same way like ICAI for CA, India.
  • There are basically four parts in which our journey is divided into
  1. Core Technical (CT-series): 9 set of papers
  2. Core Application (CA-series): 3 set of papers
  3. Special Technical (ST-series): 2 set of papers (you choose according to your interest out of 9 available here)
  4. Special application (SA-series): 1 set of paper (you choose among 6 papers)
  • To become an actuary, you need to pass all the actuarial exams (15 of them!) and have 3 years of practical work experience.
  • Passing exams will require students to have application skills as just mugging up the study material will not make them pass exams (certainly not some of the higher level exams).
  • One shall have to study on his / her own. There are, though, some coaching institutes which provide coaching for actuarial subjects. But self-study is the best, coaching is not recommended.

7. As mentioned above – what are the subjects in CT/CA/ST/SA?

8. Is internship necessary?

  • Once you clear all the 9 CT papers and all the 3 CA papers, that is 12 papers in total and with 1 year of min work experience you are eligible to become an Associate Member of the IAI.
  • And once you clear all the 15 papers you can become a Fellow Member of the IAI. However, to become a Fellow member of the Institute one needs to have a min of 3 years of work experience.
  • So there is no mandatory internship but to become a Fellow one needs a min of 3 years so indirectly work experience is mandatory.
  • Also, you can start your work experience after clearing 10 papers or 3 papers or whatever you decide – There is no rule.
  • But ideally when one passes 3-5 papers, one should start looking for a job because for the higher papers you need job experience to understand the concepts as they are directly linked with real-life problems.
  • Without getting practical experience, understanding the concepts of the papers is next to impossible.

9. How long does it take to be a Qualified Actuary? I mean to clear all 15 papers how long does one take?

  • 5 -10 years, maybe? So, yes it is not an easy course but there are quite a few who clear in 5 years as well.
  • Maybe when you start as a student (while in college) and have time to study, you could clear as many papers at most CT series.
  • Once you start working, your life cycle is to work for at least 10 hours and then come home and study for 3 hours, eat sleep and repeat!
  • Post you become an Actuary, life is better and shiny! But it takes a lot of hard work to reach there!
  • Even the brightest of minds go through several attempts before they become an Actuary. Failure is not a setback for us, it is a thing to understand the concept in a better way!
  • So in short to answer the question, if one clears everything in one attempt without any breaks then the quickest is say 5 years to become a qualified Actuary.

10. What are the various profiles available once qualified as an Actuary? Like I mean job opportunities?

  • As an intern, you could expect a minimum of 5k at least, though some companies give around 30-40k to interns as well. So, it depends on company to company and papers you have cleared, knowledge of them you possess, etc. However, as a fresher, 90% of the times, you are hired as an intern in a company.
  • A newly qualified actuary today does not earn less than Rs.15 to 20 lakhs.
  • The salary of experienced actuaries is much more.
  • Actuarial students can expect to start their career with an annual package of anywhere between Rs.4 to 5 lakh.
  • At fresher level, as I said when you clear 5 papers or so one should technically apply for a job since the competition is tough to enter the industry, as teams are usually small and many companies don’t understand and recognize our work.

11. What is the role/job responsibilities of an Actuary?

  • If you say Actuary and someone knows about it, the first thing that would come to mind isINSURANCE INDUSTRY (Life, Health, and General).
  • Actuaries ideally work in – Insurance, Reinsurance, Investment, Risk Management and Employee Benefits valuation.
  • Actuaries work in insurance industries at a very high level, we are responsible for coming up with:
  1. Appropriate premium rates
  2. Reserving (Reserves are generally amount set aside by Insurance companies out of their profits for the future payment of losses, i.e., claims)
  3. Solvency of the insurance company.
  4. Our other area of work is the valuation of the company’s liability of Employee Benefit schemes, like Gratuity, Pensions, etc.
  • We also work on the investment side of things as Risk Managers, investment bankers! Risk is our motto! Wherever there is a risk, there is an Actuary.
  • So basically we help to bring out the best expectation from a business, to judge if a particular business or product would be profitable or not, when in a business you could expect profits, what could be the losses, to judge the probability of ‘Ruin’ of a company, analysing the impact of a particular risk factor and how to deal with it.
  • Actuaries from their knowledge and judgment are able to quantify most of the things that impact a product or business.
  • We could work anywhere where there is probability and no surety that is -Where there is RISK.
  • I work in General insurance industry into pricing and reserving!

12. Does consulting firms Big 4 like PWC/KPMG etc have roles/job opportunities?

  • Yes, they all have job opportunities for Actuaries.
  • Actuaries work as consultants to the Big 4 clients and serve the same needs as any consultancy firm would require.
  • Consultancies role could be either in Insurance space, Employee Benefits valuation space, Investment Banking, Debt-Equity Analyses or Risk management services.
  • Usually, the team is not that large in comparison to Tax/Audit teams, that’s why most people aren’t aware of job opportunities in Big 4’s for Actuaries.

13. Do Banks have in-house jobs for this Actuaries?

  • Yes, they might have an in-house team. Banks could hire Actuaries to analyze their Investment portfolio, Debt-Equity analyses, etc.

14. Can an Actuary also start his/her own practice?

  • Yes definitely, I am currently working in a Startup Consultancy which my boss started at the age of 26 and he is doing great! Btw my boss is both a Chartered Accountant (CA) and a qualified Actuary.

15. Also in your opinion how could a CA benefit if he pursues Actuarial Career?

  • Actuaries are multiple times better if they understand financials. So it is a great idea for Chartered Accountants (CA) to pursue this.
  • I have seen many CA’s are now having interest in the Actuarial profession! Since you guys already understand finance and if you have a zeal for numbers, this profession is for you
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