The Skill Sets Framework divides skills between Business Skills, Knowledge, Awareness and Understanding and Technical Skills

An overview of the Key Skills in each area and the associated Specific Skills required by a Scheme Actuary, is set out below:

Business Skills

Knowledge, Awareness and Understanding

Technical Skills

Business Skills

Communication

Key Skills

Able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, taking into account differences in knowledge, technical proficiency, and expectations.

Capable of providing analysis or advice in a clear and concise manner, that focuses on the key issues and makes complex aspects both accessible and meaningful to the audience.

Specific Skills

Report Writing:  Able to write high quality actuarial reports characterised by:

  • the important issues being clearly identified and highlighted;
  • sufficient explanation to allow the reader to understand the basis of the actuary's conclusions;
  • transparency with respect to any limitations or weaknesses in the analysis; and
  • a style and technical level appropriate to the audience.

Presenting:  Able to prepare and deliver presentations that:

  • provide an effective summary of more extensive actuarial analysis; and
  • address the key factors in relation to the advice being provided and the decisions under consideration.

Meeting participation:  Willing and able to actively participate in group, Board-level discussions and make a positive contribution to the decision making process by clearly articulating the actuary's opinion.

Explanation:  Able to explain the more complicated or technical aspects of actuarial work in a straightforward, succinct way, without losing the detail relevant to the issue being considered.

Expert Judgement:  Able to clearly explain and justify where and how expert judgement has been exercised in arriving at the actuary's conclusions.

Limitations:  Awareness of any limitations or areas of uncertainty in relation to the advice the actuary is providing, and able to explain these limitations in the context of the decisions being considered by the Board.

Conflict Management

Key Skills

Able to identify and manage current or potential conflicts of interest arising from the different objectives of the various stakeholders that the actuary provides services to.

Specific Skills

Board Membership:  Able to identify and accommodate any significant differences in the opinions, objectives, or needs of the different members of the Board of Trustees that the actuary is serving.

Diplomacy:  Able to operate and communicate diplomatically with different internal and external stakeholders, to facilitate effective discussion and minimise conflict.

Integrity and Independence

Key Skills

The confidence and resolve to put forward an independent opinion and defend that position when challenged or put under pressure, but also prepared to alter that opinion if insight from other stakeholders or new information justifies doing so.

Willing and able to challenge the decisions or actions proposed by the Board of Trustees, senior individuals within the sponsoring company, or other advisors.

Specific Skills

Decision Making:  Able to provide independent advice and participate in Board discussion so as to inform the decision making process but without exerting undue influence.

Integrity: Able to act with integrity, transparency and consistency in all areas of the actuary's work, advice and discussions.

Resolve: Willing and able to stand behind and defend the actuary's own advice and recommendations, but also able to respond to any challenge put forward in a way which addresses the stakeholder's concerns or lack of understanding.

Independence of Mind: Able to consider a problem from different perspectives, taking into account all relevant information and avoiding group think.

Flexibility:  Willing and able to change or adapt the advice provided in response to new information, further analysis, or a change in circumstances.

Judgement
Key Skills

Able to apply expert judgement in developing an opinion, deciding what the key issues are, and determining when it is appropriate to challenge the Board of Trustees (or other stakeholders).

Able to be pragmatic when selecting the scope, sophistication and depth of investigation, based on a consideration of the benefits and limitations of the different approaches available.

Specific Skills

Impartiality: Capable of making a balanced and objective assessment of all of the available options when providing advice regarding a particular issue or proposed decision, that takes into account the potential impact on all affected stakeholders.

Uncertainty: Able to judge the degree of uncertainty in relation to the drivers of the financial position of the pension fund. Able to apply this judgement when setting or recommending the assumptions for future experience.

Challenge: Able to judge:

  • on which issues it is appropriate to challenge the Board of Trustees, senior management of the sponsoring company or other advisors;
  • when in the decision making process to raise the challenge; and
  • the most effective way to put forward the actuary's opposition.

Pragmatism: Able to decide on an appropriate level and sophistication of modelling or investigation, based on the accuracy required and the insight provided compared to the costs or limitations of the approach.

Negotiation and Influence

Key Skills

Capable of negotiating on behalf of the actuary's primary stakeholders and influencing decision making by putting forward a persuasive, reasoned argument for why, in the actuary's opinion, a particular course of action should be taken or avoided.

People
Key Skills

Capable of building strong relationships and proactively engaging with members of the Board, key individuals within the firm, and other professional advisors

Able to manage, motivate, and guide the team of individuals supporting the actuary.
 

Specific Skills

Trustees: Able to cultivate an open and trusting relationship with Trustees, to allow them to place confidence in the actuarial advice they receive and freely discuss any questions or concerns they have.

Senior Management: Able to interact with senior people within the sponsoring company so as to maintain a deep understanding of the business, its operating model, and the key areas of uncertainty.

Actuarial Team: Able to effectively and efficiently manage the team of actuaries and other technical / financial staff who produce the actuarial valuation and any other analysis required in order to provide advice.

Strategy

Key Skills

Able to consider the strategic and commercial implications of proposed decisions or alternative scenarios, over both the short and long term.

Specific Skills

Funding position: Able to consider the impact that the funding position determined by the actuary will have on the strategic objectives, business plan or commercial position of the sponsoring firm.

Knowledge, Awareness and Understanding

Stakeholders

Key Skills

Awareness of the complete range of stakeholders that the actuary interacts with or has responsibility for, and an understanding of their different interests, perspective, and needs.

Specific Skills

Advice: Awareness of the potential actions or decisions that could be taken based on the actuary's advice, and the effect that each of these could have on the management of the pension scheme and the members' interests.

Member Interests: Able to identify the general interests of the pension scheme members, as well as the specific interests of particular subsets within the wider group.

Member Behaviour: Awareness of the potential response from scheme members to decisions made by the Trustees or changes in the external environment.

Shareholders and Senior Management: Awareness of the current focus and long-term objectives of the shareholders and senior management of the sponsoring company.

Non-Executives: Awareness of the particular concerns and interests of the Board's non-executive members, together with an understanding of the technical areas for which they may need more careful guidance and explanation.

Operational Activity: Awareness of the particular concerns and interests of the Board's non-executive members, together with an understanding of the technical areas for which they may need more careful guidance and explanation.

External Environment

Key Skills

Awareness of external factors (e.g. general economy, investment conditions, the commercial environment, political situation, public opinion, etc.) in the context of how they may influence the future development of the scheme, fund, or business, and able to factor this into the advice being provided.

Specific Skills

Board Focus:  Awareness of the specific issues and developments in the external environment that the Board may seek the actuary's advice on.

Industry Developments: Awareness of recent, on going or forthcoming changes in the wider insurance / pensions sector, including general industry trends and new innovations in market practice.

Demographic and Claims Experience:  Awareness of recent, on going or forthcoming changes in the wider insurance / pensions sector, including general industry trends and new innovations in market practice.

Economic and Investment Conditions: Knowledge and understanding of the different factors that affect general economic conditions and investment performance over both the short and long term.

Able to apply this understanding to the specific investment strategy and liability profile of the scheme, fund or business for which the actuary is providing advice.

Regulation, Legislation and Tax

Key Skills

A deep understanding of the requirements, approach, and focus of the appropriate regulation, legislation and tax setting bodies.

Able to understand and interpret regulations or changes in regulations in terms of their impact on overall strategy, the way scheme, fund or business is organised and operated, as well as its financial position and risk profile.

Specific Skills

Capital and reserves: Knowledge and understanding of the current reserving rules and capital / funding requirements set by the regulator that apply to the scheme, fund or business which the actuary is responsible for.

Aware of any forthcoming changes to regulatory reserving and capital / funding requirements, and capable of forming a view as to the potential impact of these changes.

Taxation: Awareness of the general rules and calculation of taxation within the UK, and the specific treatment of life insurers, Lloyd's syndicates and pensions. Understanding of how a firm's tax position or liability for tax may influence its decision making and the management of it's insurance or pension liabilities.

Legal treatments: Awareness of the general rules and calculation of taxation within the UK, and the specific treatment of life insurers, Lloyd's syndicates and pensions. Understanding of how a firm's tax position or liability for tax may influence its decision making and the management of it's insurance or pension liabilities.

Wider Knowledge

Key Skills

Familiarity with the fundamental principles and practices of the other key technical and operational areas relating to the financial position, risk profile, or management of the fund, scheme or business.

Specific Skills

Accounting: General understanding of financial reports and an awareness of the accounting treatment that applies to the scheme, fund or business so as to be able to monitor financial performance and identify any unexpected results or emerging trends.

Covenants:  Awareness of the general characteristics and features of employer covenants, and a high level understanding of the covenant covering the pension scheme being advised and of how changes to the covenant may affect the funding position and security of that scheme.

Governance: Knowledge and understanding of the way in which the running of the scheme, fund or business is governed.

This knowledge should ideally cover the overarching design and objectives of the system of governance, how the system of governance has been documented and implemented, and any limitations associated with the current governance.

Sponsoring Company: Awareness of the industry, business model, and financial performance of the pension scheme's sponsoring company and an understanding of what influence this has on the position of the pension scheme.

Technical Skills

Actuarial Expertise

Key Skills

Deep understanding of the long term financial and risk related issues that the insurer, syndicate or pension scheme is facing, and able to assess these issues from a high level before carrying out more detailed analysis.

Up-to-date knowledge of the latest industry thinking and of where to go, internally or externally, to obtain the information and evidence required to provide robust, reliable advice.

Specific Skills

Assumption Setting:  Able to recommend assumptions for future economic, demographic and expense experience, based on an evaluation of historic experience data and the factors which may influence the future development of the scheme, fund or business.

Financial Management:  Understanding of the interaction between the different aspects of how the financial position of the scheme, fund or business is managed, including the investment strategy, capital position, approach to reserving / funding, and accounting treatment.

Technical Methods and Modelling

Key Skills

Understanding of the general principles, practical implementation, and limitations of the actuarial models being used to value the assets, liabilities, cash flows and capital requirements / funding position of the scheme, fund or business.

Able to interpret and explain model outputs and use the results to inform the advice being provided.

Knowledge of the latest developments and industry practice regarding current modelling techniques.

Specific Skills

Actuarial Modelling Theory:  Expert knowledge of:

  • the theory underlying the valuation of insurance or pension liabilities;
  • the practical implementation of this theory within actuarial models; and
  • how general approaches can be adapted to reflect any non-standard or new features related to specific products, contracts or schemes.

Industry Practice:  Knowledge and understanding of the most commonly used approaches and techniques for modelling insurance or pensions liabilities, and able to justify why these methods are (or are not) appropriate to the liabilities of the scheme, fund or business that the actuary is advising on.

Model Risk:  Knowledge of the weaknesses and limitations associated with actuarial models. Able to clearly articulate the implications of model risk to the appropriate stakeholders, in terms of how to interpret the model results and how it should be allowed for within decision making.

Third Party Models:  Understanding of the concepts underlying any third party models used in the valuation of the insurance / pensions liabilities, together with an awareness of the limitations of those models and of how changes in the data or assumptions may affect the output.

Systems and Data

Key Skills

Functional knowledge of the systems, technology and data used by a business to acquire or administer the scheme, fund, or contracts the actuary is advising on.

Specific Skills

Data: Knowledge of the sources of data used within actuarial calculations, the reliability of those sources, and the checks, validation and wider management processes applied to the data.

Systems: High level knowledge of the scheme / policy administration, underwriting, and accounting systems used by the insurer, syndicate or pension scheme.

Balance Sheet and Profit/Surplus Emergence

Key Skills

Knowledge and understanding of:

  • the dynamics of both the asset and liability sides of the balance sheet; and
  • the drivers of future profit or surplus emergence.

Specific Skills

Assets: Knowledge and understanding of the different classes of assets in which the insurer, syndicate or pension scheme invests, that covers:

  • the main characteristics and features of each asset class;
  • expected future performance and the risk associated with these asset classes; and
  • how these assets classes interacts with the liabilities of the scheme, fund or business.

Liabilities: Knowledge and understanding of the different product lines, fund structures, and pension commitments in relation to the insurer, syndicate or pension scheme which the actuary is advising, that covers:

  • the typical liability profile associated with the product, fund structure or pension scheme;
  • how these liabilities were acquired and how they are managed and administered on an on going basis; and
  • how the liabilities of the fund, scheme or business interact with the assets held to meet those liabilities.

Profit/Surplus Emergence:  Able to identify and explain the different sources of profit or surplus emergence with respect to the scheme, fund or business, and form a view as how these are likely to develop over the future.

Risk and Uncertainty

Key Skills

Able to identify current and emerging risks, assess the exposure to these risks, and understand the drivers of uncertainty and the ways in which different risks interact.

Knowledge of the tools and techniques available to manage and mitigate risk.

Specific Skills

Risk and Interaction and Dependency:  Knowledge and understanding of the relationships between different types of risk, and able to apply this knowledge when considering the level of diversification or interaction to allow for when considering the overall risk profile of a scheme, fund or business.

Range of Outcomes:  Knowledge of the range of potential outcomes associated with each area of uncertainty, and able to form a view regarding the likelihood of each of these outcomes and the impact they will have on the scheme, fund or business.

Alternative Scenarios:  Able to define, analyse, and explain a range of alternative scenarios to provide the Board (and other stakeholders) with a greater awareness of the effect on the fund, scheme or business if central, best-estimate assumptions are not borne out.

Review and Validation

Key Skills

Able to assess the reasonableness of the output from actuarial or financial models, and apply an appropriate level of review based on the complexity and materiality of the results.

Specific Skills

Model Validation Techniques:  Knowledge of the different techniques available with respect to model validation. Able to apply this knowledge when selecting or recommending the most appropriate approach to use, taking into account industry best practice and the significance of any decisions that will be based on the model output.

Independent Checking:  Able to carry out high level or alternative calculations separate from the primary actuarial model to confirm that the results are reasonable and inline with expected changes.

Contact Details

If you have any enquiries about the Skill Sets Framework, please contact:

regulation@actuaries.org.uk