What is an Actuary?
An actuary is a business professional who analyzes the financial consequences of risk.
Actuaries use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to study uncertain future events,
especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs. Actuaries may work for
insurance companies, consulting firms, government, employee benefits departments of large
corporations, hospitals, banks and investment firms, or, more generally, in businesses that
need to manage financial risk. A career as an Actuary is better described as a "business"
career with a mathematical basis than as a "technical" mathematical career.
What is an actuary?
Actuaries provide commercial, financial and prudential advice on the management of assets and liabilities -
most especially where long term management and planning are critical factors.
An actuary is someone who has a thorough grounding in economics, statistics and the
mathematics of finance, and who uses these skills to solve business problems.
Although there is a wide variety in the work of different actuaries, there is a common
theme. For most actuaries the role involves making financial sense of the future - the
slogan the profession adopted as part of its 150th anniversary in 1998.
Suppose that an actuary's client or employer is faced with a potential project that may
give rise to a large profit if things go well or a large loss if they don't. Making financial
sense of the future might mean making a full analysis of the project, developing views of
the range of financial outcomes, and thus enabling a more informed decision on what
course of action to follow. Actuaries make financial sense of the future by
analysing the past
modelling the future
assessing the risks involved
and communicating what the results mean in financial terms
...with the net result that the actuary's client or employer can make more informed
The actuary's skills in finance and risk management are used extensively in the insurance,
pensions and investment industries, and any other business managing long-term financial
The actuary's innovative approach to making business successful is matched by a
responsibility and an enthusiasm to provide advice on social and public interest issues.
Government has given actuaries a statutory role in the supervision of pension funds and
life insurance companies and also to provide actuarial opinions for managing agents at
Adapted from an article in 'Inside careers 2003-2004'
by Graham Hazell