The shift to a virtual world during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a new emphasis for actuarial training by bringing benefits but also a lot of downsides, according to the US Society of Actuaries (SOA).
The SOA’s actuarial training programme has been moved to a digital platform this year. Actuarial exams — which were held last week — were done virtually where six months ago, students would have been gathering in exam halls.
According to Roy Goldman, president of the SOA, there are positives to be gained from this transition. Doing courses online has allowed the SOA to make training more cost-effective and extend its reach to people who might not have attended in-person events. It has also introduced new ways of development previously unconsidered.
“The positive part is we have been getting all exams online and using Excel and Word as opposed to using calculators,” Goldman said. “It allows us to train actuaries differently. You have got much better computing power and you can ask questions about the effect of calculations and what recommendations could be made as a result of this.”
The SOA said it is not likely to return to the traditional exam format and relishes the ability to ask different questions through the online platform.
Yet there are significant downsides to this current norm, the SOA added. Principally, online learning has hampered the ability to train negotiation or communication skills vital to the actuarial role.
“We are missing ways of making that personal connection,” said Greg Heidrich, executive director of the SOA. “One of the most important skills for actuaries is the emotional quotient and adaptive quotient. These are best learnt in person. I am not confident online learning will replace that.”
Heidrich says virtual training — as with many parts of the actuarial business — “is definitely here to stay” and does not expect a return to full in-person courses until 2022.
He also pointed out the new modules the SOA is offering, in line with global trends, include a focus on exposure to ethical situations as well as a certificate in the ethical use of data. The SOA is also doing an IFRS pilot course, attesting to the importance of the accounting standard.