Calculate this: in-demand actuaries see earnings soar

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The Independent Online

Life has become unusually exciting for Britain's insurance actuaries.

As the rest of the country's living standards are squeezed, a nationwide shortage of the number crunchers has seen their salaries and bonuses soar, according to a leading recruitment consultant.

Demand has been heightened by insurers rushing to comply with complex new regulations. The result is a mini boom in what is one of the least racy jobs in the financial sector. Actuaries use their mathematical skills to assess the risk of future events and trends such as natural disasters and lengthening lifespans.

ReThink Recruitment, which specialises in business and technology employment, said actuaries in the insurance sector had seen their salaries rise by 20 per cent in the past six months, with consultants now charging upwards of £1,000 a day for their services.

In a cut-throat recruitment market, insurers are being forced to pay their actuarial consultants retention bonuses of up to 25 per cent of their salary to prevent them being poached by rivals.

The crunch has been caused by the tight timetable for the implementation of the Solvency II regime, with which insurers must comply by the end of 2012. Earlier this month, Hector Sants, the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), told an Association of British Insurers conference that he accepted the deadline was causing problems. But Mr Sants said the FSA did not intend to offer British insurers any leeway, even though the European Union has now begun talking about delaying parts of the reforms.

Guy Stubbing, a spokesman for ReThink, said many insurers had expected to be able to pick up staff from rivals, but were now finding it much harder to do so. Demand is particularly high for actuaries boasting a potent combination of mathematical and computer knowledge - and it is set to intensify.

Mr Stubbing said: "These hybrid candidates, who are qualified actuaries with IT skills and experience in areas like risk modelling and reporting systems, are in very short supply - what we are seeing now is a bidding war, which will only intensify as the deadline draws nearer."

The typical actuarial contract for work on Solvency II projects now pays £1,100 a day, the equivalent of an annual salary of around £275,000. A year ago, the rate was just £600.

The shortage of staff will add to pressure on regulators for a slowdown on Solvency II. However, the ABI said such a delay might actually cause additional costs for the sector.

"The UK industry has already spent hundreds of millions preparing for Solvency II, and stands ready to meet the January 2013 launch date," Peter Vipond, the ABI's head of insurance, said.