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Insurance hiring: actuaries buck downward trend

Insurance sector hiring is still sluggish after a year of industry upheaval, but actuaries continue to be in demand.

Samuel Griffiths, associate director of financial services at Robert Walters Japan, says hiring in the sector has been “quite patchy” over the last year due to the size of movement within the industry.

“Obviously the fact that one company has pulled out of Japan, a number of others are attempting to fundamentally change their business plans, and there is still the potential for AIG to divest some of its assets, has meant that there have been large groups of people restructured and many firms are still in hiring freezes,” he says.

But Griffiths says there continues to be strong demand for candidates with technical skill sets: people like actuaries and underwriters who have worked with products other than variable annuities, such as traditional life insurance, medical and non-life insurance.

He isn’t alone in his assessment. Kerry Clark, business manager, financial services at Wall Street Associates, says while overall hiring levels in the insurance sector are still relatively low, qualified actuaries are always in demand and there are early signs that wider hiring levels could be recovering.

“As with other industries, hiring freezes are gradually being lifted and hopefully the momentum is going to gradually pick up with recruitment. The reinsurance industry is still stable and healthy, although the size of operations in Tokyo is small in terms of headcount, and we have seen an increase in a demand for wholesalers and risk/audit candidates in particular,” says Clark .

Yet even where there is demand, Clark says firms are still being highly selective and the interview process is often fairly drawn out.

And Griffiths adds that although some firms are making great efforts to take advantage of their competitors’ woes and build their market share, most are only hiring when someone will add value to their business, such as underwriters for new product lines, or actuaries.

“Within the insurance industry actuaries are easily the most sought after candidates and even with the current issues in the industry we haven’t seen any change in that,” he says.

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