Every so often, I’ll see a discussion pop up on Actuarial Outpost or Reddit about what other designations actuaries can get or other industries actuaries work in and I am always curious to see the responses. I imagine that most of the people posing these questions are younger candidates still trying to figure out their long-term career plans, or people looking to pivot into another industry later in their careers.
I decided to answer this question myself and find out what other “letters” CAS members have collected since there didn’t seem to be any figures like this published anywhere. The data is gathered from the internal CAS membership database, which relies on self-reported titles and designations; therefore, these numbers may not reflect the true distribution:
*Example: Among 5,496 Fellows, there are 140 CERAs
Here we can see some of the problems with self-reported data as there are certainly more than 249 MAAAs in the CAS. Despite that, the top designations are all ones we would expect due to the nature of our work as P&C actuaries. Some interesting observations include the surprising number of SOA members among us (36 FSAs and 22 ASAs) and a handful of Ph.D. members.
I was surprised by the number of designations some people had, and some of the more obscure designations as well. I wanted to dig into why people purposefully chose to take even more exams on top of the already rigorous actuarial exam track, so I reached out to some members that really stuck out in the data.
Grover Edie is currently a consulting actuary at Huggins Actuarial Services in Pennsylvania and has accumulated many titles and qualifications over the course of his 40-year career. I reached out to Grover to discuss his career path and his thoughts on the future of the profession:
What industry to you predominantly work in?
I am a consultant for insurance companies and insurance-like activities such as extended service contracts, self-insured entities, Risk Retention Groups, and so on.
What designations do you currently hold?
FCAS Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society
MAAA Member of the American Academy of Actuaries
CERA Certified Enterprise Risk Analyst
CPCU Chartered property Casualty Underwriter
ARM Associate in Risk Management
AINS Associate in General Insurance
MBA Master of Business Administration in Finance
What made you want to pursue non-CAS designations?
I don’t ever want to stop learning. I believe that when you stop learning you start dying. There are things I learned as I was going through these processes that helped round out my understanding of insurance. I wish I had done something in claims, but when we were in New York, my wife was a claims adjuster, I learned a lot [from her] on our long commutes on the bus.
- AINS - Before my CAS credentials, I received my Certificate in General Insurance (now called AINS) from the institute of CPCU when I started my career as an underwriter. As an underwriter, the company I worked for encouraged this coursework as a first step towards a CPCU, which was all a part of their training and career path for underwriters.
- CPCU – I wanted to add expand my knowledge of insurance beyond the actuarial exams and what I was doing as an actuary. The CPCU enabled me to better understand other functions within the industry and within the company for which I worked. It also gave me credibility when working with others, especially CPCU’s.
- ARP – I wanted to know more about how to do research and planning, and this turned out to be an excellent way to learn it. Unfortunately, this designation is no longer available.
- MBA - I got a Masters of Business Administration because my boss thought it would be helpful, and he was right. The coursework was very useful, and the discussions in class extremely enlightening.
- CERA and ARM – I earned those credentials when I had the added responsibilities of Chief Risk Officer. I felt the course work would be valuable in what I was doing, and wanted to further my knowledge of risk management to help me with those responsibilities and the credentials would lend credibility to outside entities, such as regulators and rating agencies.
Were your companies at the time supportive of your decision to pursue other credentials?
In every instance, the company I was working for supported my efforts. That amounts to five different insurance organizations.
Which credentials do you still use/need in your current role?
Of course, the actuarial credentials are essential in what I do on a daily basis. The others I also use, but for different reasons.
The CPCU and ARM enables me to relate to non-actuarial insurance personnel and adds credibility when we are making proposals to potential clients. The MBA enables me to relate to financial and managerial personnel.
Do you think it has been more valuable to have these additional designations due to the skills you gained or due to the outside recognition?
I think it was a bit of both. I wouldn’t do it for just one or just the other, to be honest with you. I do think it helps round out my knowledge of the other parts of insurance and the risk management process.
When I was an underwriter, my company actually encouraged us, as a part of the training process, to sit with other departments for while. That was a great learning experience, even though I [didn’t] have any letters after my name or any recognition. When I was at GM, I spent a day with a field rep and we went around to other dealerships. It was kind of an eye opener to see where the product meets the individual that sells the product. The concerns are very different there compared to the claims’ adjuster level or executive level. So that’s one of those unseen educational opportunities I always try to take advantage of.
What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?
When I started with GM, the extended service contract was losing literally hundreds of millions of dollars every year. With being a long-term contract, 3 to 6 years, a turn around does not happen overnight. It’s not like Auto where you change your rates and six months later everyone is on the same rate level. It was a long process, but it was also very educational in what can go wrong and how do you fix it. Not only the mechanics of fixing it, but also the politics of fixing it. And that really stretched a lot of my skills, which was a lot of fun.
I have been doing some economic capital modelling which involves not only the actuarial work, but some of the work I learned as an MBA. I really enjoy that and I think it’s fun. I think that’s where actuaries need to be. Not only there, but I think there is a lot more that can be done in the economic capital modelling area.
Do you think there are other industries actuaries can or should move into?
The other one I see a lot that I think is somewhat untapped by actuaries is the accrual area. For example, Amazon has a lot of products returned. There’s got to be a huge amount of analysis that can be done with the product return process. Estimating when it will happen, how it will happen, how much it will cost …etc. That’s a brand new area.
There’s a seminar in banking coming up in a few weeks from the CAS on how actuaries can work in banking. And that’s got to be a big area. This is a long time ago, when my company [at the time] was just looking at using credit scoring. Well scoring, not just credit scoring, could probably be exported to a lot of places. Just about anywhere you have data I think we can really get into.
What do you think an actuary brings to the table that other industry professionals don’t?
I was fascinated to have a conversation with an economist not too long ago, and I was frustrated with his lack of knowledge with what actually happened in the space he was discussing. The one thing I’ll have to say is actuaries tend to know their business case very well. I think the actuary brings a training that requires them to understand the business case of what they’re doing, and not just the numbers.
Do you think things like automation or the increase in data science have the potential to replace actuarial?
About 40 years ago, I was with a Hewlett-Packard scientist who showed me a programmable calculator, I mean these were like a thousand dollars in the mid-70s. He said “These are going to replace actuaries. Maybe you need an actuary to type in the numbers, but that’s it.” When the personal computer came around, people were saying there’s going to be a tenth of the number of actuaries in the future because these PCs can do all of their work… What ends up happening is that the actuary will take the calculator first, the computer second, and uses them as a tool to get better at what they do, faster at their analysis, and come up with a better product. I’ve heard people say that data scientists will replace the actuary because they’re cheaper, etc. I just don’t think that is going to happen. Experience tells me that the actuary is going to use the data scientists just like we used the calculator and just like we used the computer. That’s how I believe the interactions between the two is going to happen. So we’ll see if I’m right.
Do you think that the recent saturation of the career will be good for the profession?
My wife says there are too many of us. Now if the market remains static, she’s right. My goal is to try to get the actuaries to think beyond the insurance/loss reserving/pricing aspect and get into some other stuff because our skillset is transportable to a whole lot of different areas. There was a time I knew some actuaries who left insurance work and went to work for some brokerage houses to do stock analytics. I thought that was cool, and I don’t know why more haven’t done that.
There are people starting to move into other areas. I think we are going through a market saturation now, but we will see a drain of that saturation brought about by actuaries needed in other disciplines. For example, I don’t know what actuarial work you need to have in order to do micro-insurance, but that just scratches the surface.
Do you have any advice you would like to give to younger candidates?
To those still taking exams, finishing those are the most important. You do have some off time between exams to read up on things to round out your education. Once you’re finished and you’re a fellow, you’re used to studying. So keep it up! Get your CPCU, ARM, or whatever. That would be one piece of advice, don’t stop studying when you’re a fellow. If you’re a pre-associate or associate between exams, don’t stop studying, read something light.