After working as an actuarial recruiter for more than eight years, Adi Kaimowitz wanted to do something with the network of actuaries that he’d built up. He considered four business models, until he finally came up with one that would appeal to him and actuaries generally.
“Actuarial service is an advanced industry dominated by a handful of very big and a few boutique-type consultancies,” Kaimowitz says. “Professionalism and integrity are at the core of how the industry operates. In both cases, the actuaries are salaried staff members who get a bonus at the end of the year should they reach particular targets. The long hours and continuous stress of ever-increasing performance targets can get to most actuaries and possibly be associated with burnout. I realised what was needed was a new remuneration model.”
As a result, Kaimowitz and a group of actuaries launched Virtual Actuary in January this year.
“We’re not saying that the old way of doing business is wrong,” he says. “We are merely introducing a new take on a consulting model. Instead of taking the bulk of the fees for the company, all our actuaries have been made share partners. Earnings made doing a particular job are in effect shared between the actuaries, while only a small percentage is kept by the company.”
For those working for Virtual Actuary, it’s almost like freelancing, except that they benefit from being part of a bigger team in terms of administration, marketing and resources. The actuaries are able to write their own cheques based on the number of assignments they do – some might commit to work two hours a day, and others might opt for a 50-hour week. The team leader assigns the work to staff based on these commitments.
Most of the work is done remotely, from home, although some team members might be based at client offices.
“The flexible work conditions are especially appealing to mothers, who represent 13 of our 30 or so actuaries. It is the idea of not having to sit in traffic for an hour to get to work and being able to be at home if your child is sick. It also appeals to millennials and more mature actuaries who are looking for more freedom in their career,” Kaimowitz explains.
The company is a lean start-up, with no investors, running from profits generated through clients. Not having a centrally based office space lowers overheads, allowing the company to offer more competitive rates and higher earnings for employees. The more relaxed environment also seems to boost employee efficiency.
Kaimowitz emphasises that the company is not a freelance platform where clients screen actuaries or publish jobs for which actuaries have to pitch. It is an organised business, like any other actuarial consultancy: “We employ full-time teams headed by actuaries with years of experience in their respective sectors.”
Getting actuaries on board was easy. “I think the industry was ready for a new type of actuarial consulting business and, in fact, the encouragement and support from clients, thus far, have been beyond what we were hoping for,” Kaimowitz says.
The company started out with 20 actuaries and junior actuaries and aims to eventually compete as a big global consultancy. It is important that the juniors are nurtured properly so that they develop into competent actuaries and that the quality of work is of the highest standard, Kaimowitz says. Therefore, the company did not want to grow too fast: “We have a 10-year plan to be a major participant.”
Most of the members of the Virtual Actuary team have been working in their respective sectors for many years, and this has helped immensely with the sourcing of clients.
“These actuaries come with an extensive network, which took years to establish,” he says.
The company uses multiple channels to reach out to clients and have established a mini franchise to support actuaries who are familiar with certain international territories.
“Possibly for the first time ever, there’s now a full team of actuaries ready to deliver on workflow that could be very large. This is very empowering for anybody wanting to take on a big client,” Kaimowitz explains. “We’re able to split the workflow, so we can have more than one person working on a project while still keeping the fee reasonable.”
The company benefits from communication technologies such as Zoom, Skype, Slack and Amazon Web Services, allowing team members and clients to work and share information from almost anywhere in the world.
Kaimowitz foresees the industry becoming more technologically advanced over the next five or so years, allowing for even greater efficiency. “Ten years ago, actuaries had to sit in front of a computer to work. These days they may be using four screens at a time, which makes the work a lot easier and faster. Soon, they’ll be able to use virtual reality or augmented technology to consult even more efficiently.”