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Growing the pipeline of black actuarial talent

Growing the pipeline of black actuarial talent
01-09-22 / Tau kaVodloza

Growing the pipeline of black actuarial talent

Johannesburg - The non-life insurance industry struggles to attract young, black actuarial talent compared to the life insurance sector. While short-term insurance is a more focused area within the actuarial profession, the overall path to getting an actuarial qualification is hard, and for diverse candidates, the path is fraught with obstacles.

“There are relatively fewer diverse candidates coming into the short-term insurance space, which is resulting in a huge transformation gap in non-life insurance. We are concerned about the talent pipeline in the future,” says Ronald Richman, Chief Actuary at Old Mutual Insure.

According to the statistics by the Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals (ASABA), South Africa has 109 Black African Fellow Actuaries, compared to the 974 White Fellow Actuaries: an 800% disparity, and only a small percentage of these actuaries hold a qualification in the non-life space.

Richman says that there are several reasons for the disparity.

“Firstly, short-term insurance a more focused area of specialization that the tertiary education system has in general not prioritized (Wits being an exception), and despite the interesting technical actuarial challenges of this segment of the insurance market, it has not succeeded in attracting the same level of interest from actuaries as the life insurance market. In addition, the path is long which puts many candidates off on pursuing it, and there is a perception that there is a lack of training or support to help younger actuaries with the difficult short-term exams when they are starting out,” he says.

Richman adds that the sector has also been impacted by the ‘brain drain’, with young South African actuaries, who are lured by critical skills visas in developed markets, immigrating for overseas opportunities. 

He adds that more needs to be done to support young actuaries when they are entering the workplace, as well as to promote the short-term insurance sector as a rewarding career choice. 

To help solve this problem, Old Mutual Insure earlier this year joined hands with ASABA to transform the non-life insurance actuarial profession and ensure it becomes seen as an attractive and rewarding career path for black candidates. The initiative between the two parties will aim to intervene at different career points, from studying through to becoming a young professional.

“We really want to strengthen the pipeline of black actuarial talent in South African and attract a more diverse pool of talent to the profession,” says Richman, adding that he first identified the industry-wide issue when he joined Old Mutual Insure.

“I went to our executive committee and said we need to do something about this. They supported the idea and this is how the partnership was born.”
Richman says it is the first such partnership in the short-term insurance space, encouraging other professions in different practice areas to replicate such partnerships.

“We would love to see more financial institutions model this behaviour so as to prioritise transformation of our industry and keep talent in South Africa.”

Nabeelah Kolia, President of ASABA, says, “The partnership is already going a long way to promote inclusivity and the availability of skills in the sector as well as identify, support, inspire, develop, and raise awareness for the next generation of black South African actuaries, deepening the pool of candidates available in the actuarial profession.”

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