Exploring a Credential for Para Actuaries

Mark Freedman, SOA President

Mark Freedman, SOA President


As the actuarial profession and the needs of our employers and clients evolve, para actuaries or, technical actuarial support staff, are increasingly filling technical and actuarial support roles at many types of insurance and financial services organizations.

In response to this growth in actuarial support professionals, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) earlier this year launched the Certified Actuarial Analyst credential. This credential is designed for individuals who work with actuaries in areas such as data analysis, pricing and valuation. Individuals with this credential have a distinctly different IFoA membership than associates and fellows. However, they follow the same code of conduct, and they comply with continuing professional development requirements.

The SOA is exploring whether there is a need for this type of credential in the parts of the profession we serve. As part of that exploration, we are conducting a survey of a cross section of members, candidates, and employers.  We are trying to gauge the needs and perspectives of individuals who serve as para actuaries and those of the actuaries who work with them. We designed this exploratory survey to help us learn about the relevance of this type of credential. We will use these survey results to gain an understanding of the needs of the industry and how these ideas align with our organization and its future.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this type of credential. Please leave a comment below. Your insights will also help inform the SOA Board as it continues to explore offering such a credential.

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14 responses to "Exploring a Credential for Para Actuaries"

  • Humphrey says:

    I support this measure. It gives a designation to professionals that have plenty of experience in an industry but have less opportunity to pursue Associateship or Fellowship (maybe due to starting a family, or being simply too valuable in their current role for an employer to pay for the exam process).

    Individuals who’ve worked for smaller firms have a distinct disadvantage when looking for other jobs. An employer would rather hire a former Towers Watson, State Farm or MetLife employee than someone from a company that they have no prior knowledge of. A credential for these professionals gives the employer a clearer picture of whom they are hiring, and also levels the playing field for talented individuals who are coming from firms with less-recognizable names.

  • Debbie Gattenby says:

    I was forwarded a link to this website by an Actuary I work with. I would be very interested in obtaining this type of credential. I’ve working in the Actuarial profession for 25+ years and have many of the same responsibilities as the Actuarial staff I work with. I provide valuation support and am involved in GAAP and Statutory financial reporting. I’m involved in data mining and preperations of exhibits for rate filings. I supervise a staff of 4 Actuarial students.

    I do not see a survey to complete, but would be willing to provide further feedback if needed.

    Thank you,
    Debbie Gattenby

  • Ken Faig says:

    In both of the first two actuarial departments where I worked, there were non-actuaries who handled related tasks like reinsurance administration, policyowner service calculations, etc. I think it is fair to say that I and my fellow actuarial students learned a lot from these colleagues. Many insurance company staff members pursue LOMA credentials, so I don’t know if a “para-actuary” track, particularly if of equivalent mathematical sophistication as LOMA, would serve a useful purpose in the life insurance company arena. One possibility for the para-actuary track is a career path for so-called dead-ended students. Today, dead-ended students are rapidly dropped from actuarial employment. A generation ago, there was more tolerance for those who had difficulty with the exams. Possibly the para-actuary designation would be useful for such instances. Overall, however, I am not wildly enthusiastic about the para-actuary proposal. Within the life company environment, I think LOMA already serves many of the needs the para-actuary designation mike seek to accomplish. I doubt whether many of my non-actuary colleagues in actuarial departments of days of yore would have wanted to have been burdened with all the responsibilities of becoming familiar and complying with the code of conduct and all the associated guidance. Another issue would be voting rights within the SOA & subjection to AAA qualification standards. Would a para-actuary ever issue a statement of actuarial opinion, so-called?

  • Parmeshvar Sharma, FSA says:

    I do not see any need of SOA or actuaries to set up standards or credentials for such a group of people.

  • Gary Petersen says:

    I would certainly support this. I am the manager of an analytical team for an employee benefit consulting firm. It would be helpful in managing the differences in skill sets and capabilities of different analysts to have a clear designation to point to that showed someone as having achieved a certain level of aptitude and professionalism that distinguished them amoungst their peers. In addition, it would help with clear promotional paths and would give an incentive to individuals to pursue specific goals to improve themselves.

  • John Schubert says:

    Great idea to explore. Would love to find a way to get this group to be subject to code of conduct, CE and ASB/ABCD.

  • Neil Schneider says:

    Our local office has expanded the continuing education program to include data analysts and technical support staff. There was a need to provided opportunities for growth for both the actuaries and the support staff. Most of the accepted curriculum is centered around online college courses with some job relevance. An SOA sponsored para actuary certification program would be a great addition to our program and to the staff’s overall knowledge portfolio.

  • Alyson Wise says:

    Although I was unaware of the term ‘para actuary’, I am definitely one of them. I’ve been working on actuarial teams for over 6 years, and although I am not accredited, I do follow the same codes of conduct as my SOA accredited colleagues. I also often attend the same continuing education sessions that my coworkers do. I would definitely be interested in learning more about what this type of credential would require.

  • Andrew Turner says:

    Didn’t we try this before? Years ago there was an attempt to float a Qualified Risk Analyst (QRA) credential for people with some exams passed. The industry’s reaction was a resounding “meh”.

    And rightly so. The minting of smaller credentials for people with smaller actuarial responsibilities is simply an attempt to raise revenues for the SOA. Its only real effect would be to expand the number of people in the insurance industry who have to find money to pay for continuing education programs and certification exams. Creating a designation for “para-actuaries” would be like making up a disease just so you can market your newly-developed drug as a cure.

    Banking, on the other hand, clearly needs better risk management (see the 2008-present Great Recession). If you want to expand the market for actuaries and actuarial knowledge, the focus should be on actuaries’ penetration into the banking sector.

  • Tom Zavist says:

    In practice, inclusiveness and the imposition of detailed, written professional standards go hand in hand.

    There will always be actuarial assistants, actuarial students, and individuals who have passed some of the actuarial examinations and have quit. The original concept was that they report to actuaries (at their employer) who have completed the examinations and who are fully qualified. In a perfect world, these supervising actuaries are the voting members of an actuarial association—its Fellows. The supervision occurs at work—not at the actuarial association.

    Some associations, like the ASPPA, admit actuarial assistants and other non-actuaries. Over time there has been a push to extend voting membership to actuaries who have not passed all the examinations. The problem with all this inclusiveness is that it validates a lack of trust in members to perform actuarial work unsupervised and provides an excuse for supervision through the actuarial association, via endless rules and the threat of disciplinary action, instead of relying on supervision at the place of employment. This sort of supervision may then infringe on the legal rights of an employer to run a business in a free market.

    Every professional standard potentially is an anti-trust violation. In a Capitalist legal framework, only the government may regulate an industry, and businesses are free to conduct trade as they please, so long as they stay within the law. Collusion among competitors—especially collusion to raise prices or to reduce competition—is typically illegal and often a felony. Whenever an association of competitors tries to privately prohibit a type of service to a client that is legal—by imposing qualification standards or standards of practice—it potentially can be restraint of trade. Professional standards have the superficial appearance of a halo, but their substance is a shadow of illegality—which can come to haunt the profession.

    The solution is to stop admitting members who are not completely qualified. There is some judgment here, but regardless where you draw the line the concept should be that every member should be reliable—as reliable as any standard-setting board and as dependable in supervising others as any officer of an actuarial association. As long as members are recognized as this reliable and dependable—and originally they were—officers of actuarial associations shall have no need to presume to be ethically superior to them and to burden them with endless rules—rules which can coopt members against their will into an appearance of collusion.

    These dependable, reliable actuaries should vote as members of an actuarial association, which should trust them—relying on them just as the public relies on them. There should be one class of members—the ones who finished the exams.

  • Lisa Zwicker says:

    I do not see the need for this credential, but that may be due to differences in the actuarial employment environment between Canada and the US.

    My experience would only be with insurance companies, but I’ve seen a heavy emphasis placed on attaining your fellowship (FCIA, FSA) here in Canada – and I’ve seen it get stronger over time. In Canada, the term “actuary” means an FCIA in most government regulations and legislation. This is different from both the US and the UK.

    The result is that the ACIA or ASA designation does not have the same value in Canada as it appears to have in the US. Companies hiring an ASA are typically filling an “actuarial programme” role (e.g. pursuit of fellowship) or what’s been described by other commenters as a “para-actuary” role. If it’s the latter, the ASA may or may not be a requirement which means dues and CPD costs may or may not be paid by the company.

    Canadian insurers also use co-op students fairly widely. Much of the work they do would fall into this “para-actuary” bucket.

    Given that environment, I can’t see a “para” designation having much appeal in Canada.

  • Gagan Sawhney says:

    Please consider that SoA has a certain brand value and giving away SoA sponsored titles will dilute the brand value.

  • Mike Polasky says:

    I am curious to know more about the exploratory survey from the SOA on the whether there’s a need for a para actuary designation such as the CAA.

  • […] update from the SOA is that they are exploring a credential for Para-Actuaries according to the SOA President. Para-Actuaries are to actuaries what paralegals are to lawyers. […]

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