Will an individual investment product development role help towards actuarial consulting career?

An old contact mailed me a couple of days ago asking my view on two possible actuarial positions. He was interested in whether either would be suitable preparation for a consulting or actuarial consulting role in future. I thought the answer might be of broader interest, so I’m copying it, with a little editing to protect the innocent into a couple of blog posts.

Please note this shouldn’t be taken as categorical always applicable advice – just some thoughts:

Insurers are facing stiff competition in the investment space, both on the individual and corporate side. Competing against investment banks and asset managers, often on more direct terms than in the past, and with the albatross of poor reputation, sluggish reaction to changing market conditions and often a higher cost base mean that insurers need plenty of help in this area. Depending on the specific role, you can get involved in anything from market research and customer needs analysis, creative product design, model coding, profit testing, distribution analysis, customer segmentation and analytics, financial reporting (IFRS, FSV/PGN104, EV, EEV, MCEV, Solvency II etc.), administration system design and implementation, liaison with distribution force, sales team training, product profitability monitoring, policy documentation wording etc.

There is plenty of scope to gain breadth of knowledge, but it is likely that you won’t be doing all of this. I’d check out what they envisage you actually doing, see what is in your “performance contract” if this exists and see whether it is a narrow or broad role, and whether it can become broader over time.

Aside from its relevance to an actuarial consulting career, this is an interesting space to be involved in at the moment. Around the world, insurers are only touching on possibilities of product design and customer information and analysis. South African insurers are probably a little further behind the curve.

Good luck!