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Episode 145: A look at the job market for Canadian actuaries
21st September 2022 • Seeing Beyond Risk / Voir au-delà du risque • CIA-ICA
00:00:00 00:10:01

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As the profession emerges from COVID-19, working arrangements have entered a new paradigm, and this change in the status quo has implications for both employers and job seekers within the industry. Additionally, other factors – such as IFRS 17 and competition from data science – have impacts of their own. In this episode, Adrian Czernick joins us to talk about the current state of affairs regarding the market for actuarial talent in Canada. (In English)

Transcripts

Fievoli:

Welcome to Seeing Beyond Risk, a podcast series from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. I'm Chris Fievoli, Staff Actuary, Communications and Public Affairs at the CIA.

Fievoli:

The actuarial job market in Canada continues to be quite active, but both employers and actuaries are dealing with some new realities when it comes to hiring and working arrangements, so much of which was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fievoli:

To give us an overview of what's going on now in 2022, we're joined by Adrian Czernick of Elliott Bauer. Thanks very much for joining us today.

Czernick:

Thanks, Chris.

Fievoli:

Overall, what's the state of the employment market for actuaries and actuarial candidates these days? Are there any major trends emerging that you have seen?

Czernick:

Yes, definitely. I think it's probably best to start maybe back in when COVID started, in 2020; things certainly slowed down during that first part of March, April, May… even into the latter of 2020.

Czernick:

But from early 2021 up until today that the market is in has been quite robust. There's been a significant need for actual talent across the board and in the majority of sectors as well as at all levels.

Czernick:

And I think part of that is obviously driven by the supply of actuarial talent. It's always been relatively low, but it seems to be even more so or even a broader fight for talent at the moment between various organizations.

Czernick:

So, I think the trends that we're seeing are increased competition for actuaries from various employers, whether that be the traditional employer such as life insurers, P&C insurers, or consulting firms…

Czernick:

…but we're seeing people move into non-traditional roles as well, whether that be rules that related to data science or other areas within the insurance industry or we're seeing some non-traditional employers sort of… come into the market where they are broader tech companies or the types of organizations that are now starting to see the value of actuaries from a data-driven perspective and bringing those into the fold.

Czernick:

I think another trend that we're seeing is the need for talent that is driven by the actuaries themselves.

Czernick:

A lot of that can be compensation related; we're seeing some significant increases in conversation in the actuarial sector, and I think we're certainly feeling quite a number of calls about that trend and what that means.

Czernick:

The majority of actuaries we speak to aren't driven by compensation to make a job move, but it certainly tends to be a point of conversation these days, maybe more so than ever because of the increases that we are seeing.

Czernick:

I think also in general that companies are trying to put more emphasis on trying to retain staff and trying to understand their own internal equity structures and so on to try and retain the people that they have and grow them internally as it's always best to retain staff that way.

Czernick:

So those are some of the trends that we're seeing anyway.

Fievoli:

Yeah, I think it goes without saying that the pandemic was a major disrupter, especially when it comes to working arrangements.

Fievoli:

So, can you tell us maybe how it has the increased prevalence of remote working; has it affected hiring practices?

Czernick:

Yeah, I think this is one of the biggest changes that we've seen.

Czernick:

It's in the past 15 years that we've been in business in terms of hiring practice from a location perspective.

Czernick:

As we all know, the majority of us were working from home in 2020 and into 2021, and even now most of us are in potentially some hybrid model, with some organizations starting to have people come back to the office and it's really been disruptive in hiring practice.

Czernick:

I think one of the biggest things is it's really driven the competition for talent regionally and nationally.

Czernick:

So, what I mean by that is, traditionally, there's been pockets of actuarial talent, whether it be in Toronto, Waterloo, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, etc.

Czernick:

They used to kind of compete for talent within their own regions, but now with some organizations allowing actuaries to work 100% remote or in hybrid models throughout various offices within the country, it's increased competition in regional markets for actuarial talent and a lot of that is also driven by the actuaries themselves.

Czernick:

And we are seeing the desire, actually, is to have flexibility, whether that's the option of doing 100% remote or the option of going into the office once or twice a week.

Czernick:

They're interested in having that flexibility and I think the organizations that are able to offer that flexibility are the ones that will likely succeed in securing and retaining the best actuarial talent going forward.

Fievoli:

Interesting. I just want to talk a bit about IFRS 17 now. It's been a long time coming and it will finally be implemented this coming January.

Fievoli:

What do you expect to see happening to all the resources that were dedicated to the implementation of these standards? What's going to happen to them going forward?

Czernick:

I think it's still to be determined. I think from our side, we're still seeing organizations reach out to us to still help them fill IFRS 17 roles with that being part of the modelling with the implementation of the strategy involved in that at various levels.

Czernick:

And I think companies themselves are at various levels of preparedness in terms of the implementation. And so even though we do think the market for IFRS 17-specific positions will continue to slow – particularly maybe towards the middle to the latter half of 2023 – right now, we are still seeing quite a demand.

Czernick:

No, the people that are in those positions now, I think they position themselves quite well in that they've been involved in a large-scale important project at their employer, whether it be from within the insurance companies themselves, or they've probably been on high-level projects as a consultant.

Czernick:

So, they've probably gained some internal equity and gained some exposure for those organizations. And that combined with the need to retain actuarial talent, I think the actuaries working in IFRS 17-specific roles will likely just move internally into other positions that will likely be open or maintained to be open.

Czernick:

And then those in consulting firms may have a little leverage that experience into a different type of role or they're certainly going to be consulting from themselves or certainly looking to see where other lines of revenue are going to be coming from beyond IFRS 17…

Czernick:

…as it's been, I would say it’s been a good revenue generator for them over the last few years, but there's going to continue to be actuarial work and I think the people working on those kinds of work are going to be retained and their jobs will continue in their careers will continue to grow.

Fievoli:

And one thing that employers are focusing on a lot these days is diversity and inclusion in their hiring. So, can you tell us what sort of challenges that creates for you in this particular area?

Czernick:

It’s certainly a top-of-mind topic when we speak to our clients, business leaders, and HR leaders are certainly genuinely interested in trying to increase the diversity of their actuarial talent pool within the organizations.

Czernick:

And we speak on a regular basis with trying to get the most diverse pool of candidates in the searches that we conduct for our client base.

Czernick:

With that said, the actual profession, I think still think has a long way to go in terms of being its best in terms of diversity and inclusion.

Czernick:

I think that it's probably been better than it was in the past, but at the same time, it's a juggle with our clients between trying to find the best candidate and trying to ensure their talent pool remains diverse as possible.

Czernick:

So, it's a top-of-mind subject. I don't think there is any easy solution to – or I could say easy path – to get to the best point of diversity and inclusion. But we think it is moving forward and our clients are certainly keeping it top of mind and doing what they can to maintain that diversity.

Fievoli:

So let's wrap up by talking about what you see as some of the major competitors for actuarial talent. Are data science and predictive modelling still considered to be hot topics out there?

Czernick:

Yes, I think so. And if you look at the competitors to the actual sector, I guess if you're looking at maybe graduates or people that are entering university, they have the ability now to choose sort of a data science path or an actuarial science path or a computer science path for that matter.

Czernick:

So I think the competition starts there. And yes, data science itself is now a competitor for those actuaries who have started their work career and have specific experience.

Czernick:

I think in general data science in the past was seen to be a sort of a P&C insurance-driven skill set, but certainly, over the past few years it's entered all sectors, and we have clients in all sectors asking for data science backgrounds if possible.

Czernick:

The R, the Python skill set, whatever it might be. The challenge remains where there's a bit of a gap. We have organizations that would like to hire actuaries who have data science experience and then we have a number of actuaries who maybe have traditional actuarial experience who would like to get into a data science role.

Czernick:

But what we haven't seen is a lot of is a traditional actuary make the jump into a peer data science role without any specific experience. I think that gap is going to continue to become less wide and I think we're going to see actuaries develop their skill set in the data science centre.

Czernick:

I think we're going to see that change, but the main competitors for actuarial talent, to go back to the question, is still the traditional employers themselves.

Czernick:

There is a number of traditional employers still looking for that actual talent for traditional opportunities and that itself brings its own competition for actuarial talent.

Fievoli:

All right. Well, that was a good overview of the market these days. So, thanks very much for coming to speak to us today.

Czernick:

Great. Thanks, Chris, any time.

Fievoli:

We now have over 100 episodes in our podcast series going back over the past three years, so we certainly encourage you all to submit to subscribe and you could do so through whatever platform you use to get your podcast content.

Fievoli:

And we would like to hear from you. So, if you have any suggestions or episode ideas, you can send them to podcasts@cia-ica.ca.

Fievoli:

As well, we're always looking for content to include on our seeing beyond Risk blog. So, if you have some ideas you would like to share, you can contact us at seeingbeyondrisk@cia-ica.ca.

Fievoli:

Until next time. I'm Chris Fievoli and thank you for tuning in to Seeing Beyond Risk.