How to qualify without studying for IFoA exams

Discussion in 'General study / exams' started by Dom B, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. Dom B

    Dom B Very Active Member

    I have discovered one way to become an FIA that does not involve playing the IFoA exam paper lottery and I am going to consider doing this myself. If anything I have stated in the following steps is incorrect, please do let me know:

    STEP 1 - Enrol on a Masters Degree in Actuarial Science at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland
    • The fees are a mere £440 (580CHF) per semester
    • It is taught in English
    • It is made up of 14 months of taught courses plus exams (Oct 2018 – Dec 2019) followed by a thesis in 2020
    • It meets the educational requirements of the Swiss Association of Actuaries (SAA)

    I have amended this post to highlight that this is a taught (not distance learning course) as one student rightly pointed out.

    Once completed, you have no more exams to do!

    STEP 2 - Get 3 years work experience, then you can apply for the title “Actuary SAV”

    You have already met the education requirements in Step 1 so now you can progress with the first 3 years of your career without being weighed down by exams. Once you have three years’ experience, you can apply for the title “Actuary SAV” with the Swiss Association of Actuaries

    STEP 3 – undertake a 1-year supervised ‘adaptation period’ and become a Fellow of the IFoA

    The IFoA has a mutual recognition agreement with the Actuarial Association of Europe which in turn has a recognition agreement with the Swiss Association of Actuaries.

    So all you need to do is 1-year of work experience in the UK that is signed off by a supervisor and you’ve completed your training.

    Congratulations, after 14 months of studying & exams, 4 years work experience and 1 thesis you have become an FIA, Fellow of the Swiss Association of Actuaries and hold a Masters in Actuarial Science! Not bad at all.
    Infinity and almost_there like this.
  2. Muppet

    Muppet Ton up Member

    Go for it, if you think it's a better route.
    Don't forget the opportunity cost of studying when you could be earning. And the risk the recognition agreement changes.
    And the key thing is to get a good job, not a few letters after your name.

    And if the exams are a lottery then I got very lucky!! I should buy a lottery ticket.
  3. x_>_<_x

    x_>_<_x Made first post

    That's 5 years and 1 thesis right? I would still take the exams with study dates. I think you are making the exams sounds worse than it is.
  4. almost_there

    almost_there Senior Member

    They're only meant to, according to their own Royal charter bye law 45, enter into MRA with associations of equivalent qualification standards and would deny breaching this when asked. Yet the example posted shows what a sham this agreement is. There is no 3-year Uni course in the UK where you can complete all the actuary exams to qualify as a Fellow, never mind 14 months and a thesis.
    John Lee and Dom B like this.
  5. Infinity

    Infinity Ton up Member

    I work in Switzerland and I can confirm this is true. Only problem is to get a residence permit for Switzerland which is why this route is generally only available for people who are Swiss nationals.

    You can get a job as a student and work here and then switch to the Swiss exams but the final exam is in one of the National languages and not English

    The exams are a damn sight easier and people don’t seem to persistently fail or take decades to qualify.

    I know many people who have taken advantage of the Swiss route to go on and work in the uk without having had to study what we would have to do.

    It’s not just the Swiss, it’s every other European qualification which is easier

    Let me know if you want advice on Switzerland and moving here.
    Dom B likes this.
  6. Dom B

    Dom B Very Active Member

    You are absolutely right, and this can mean only one of two things:

    1) European actuaries are being awarded an FIA title by the IFoA despite not meeting the standard required to be a practicing FIA actuary in the UK; or

    2) The difficulty of the IFoA exams themselves (not the subject matter) are set at a far higher level than is necessary to allow candidates to display that they have acquired the necessary knowledge and understanding for each subject.

    It seems very unlikely that 1) would be true. This is firstly because the European actuaries granted FIA status usually hold a masters degree in this subject and are already qualified members of credible institutions within their respective countries. Secondly, it seems unlikely that the IFoA would grant the FIA title to any actuaries that it did not consider fit to practice in the UK.

    Therefore, it is highly probable that 2) would be true. Which leads one to question why the IFoA exams are set such that they are so much more difficult to pass. To answer that question, one first needs to consider the fact that the IFoA raise (in my estimate) ~ £10 Million in exam fee revenue alone every year, and, on average, ~ £5.3 Million (i.e. 53% of students) of that revenue is paid by students needing to resist these exams every year.
  7. Dom B

    Dom B Very Active Member

    Thank you Infinity, I would really appreciate that.

    I joined the IFoA in late-2017, so given that I only narrowly missed a pass in one of their toughest CT exams in history (with the 3rd lowest pass rate of 184 recorded CT results) despite being a relative newcomer, I am confident that I would pass the re-sit and the remainder of the IFoA exams. However, in my short time with the IFoA I have learned that at least half of the material in their courses is unnecessary and will not be used by any practicing actuary throughout their career. In my 20 year career I have learned that learning unnecessary material is simply a waste of time and there are more productive things to do, particularly in the emerging technologies space. So I will probably forgo the CT8 resit and depart from the IFoA within the next few weeks.

    I looked at this masters in Switzerland, as well as other European countries, who all seem to strip out the unnecessary material within the IFoA syllabus and instead focus students on exactly what they need to learn in order to become a successful practicing actuary. Also, the fact that you can qualify in Europe via doing a masters and not paying exam fees (or exemption fees) directly to an institution means that there is no financial incentive for those institutions to fail their students. This seems to be a far more modern and transparent approach to the profession.

    My intention was to study the Swiss syllabus in preparation for doing the masters and then enroll on to the masters in 1-2 years time. From what I understand this MSc meets all of the education requirements for the Swiss Association of Actuaries so there would be no further exams to do after this?

    Would you mind I messaged you privately to discuss offline?
  8. almost_there

    almost_there Senior Member

    For the Swiss Fellowship they don't have a written communication test yet IFoA have one - CP3.
    Swiss actuary comes to UK works for a year and gets FIA without needing to pass CP3. There is no box on the work experience form for a Fellow to tick off their communication skills.
    This shows double standards on the competency required to obtain FIA.
    I'm sure there are many other examples like this.
  9. Viki2010

    Viki2010 Senior Member

    The only drawbacks that I can think of are:
    - high cost of living in Switzerland
    - would need to stay in Switzerland for several years to complete 3 years of experience. The actuarial market may be tough for grads and German or Swiss German one of the job requirements to get into a grad role.
    - lack of UK experience may be a barrier to entry.
    - lack of UK knowledge due to not doing UK exams (ST, SA level).

    The MRA devalued the FIA qualification.
  10. Dom B

    Dom B Very Active Member

    - I think you would only need to live there for just over 2 years. The Swiss Association does not require all of your work experience to be in Switzerland. Living costs in Lausanne are similar to London
    - You also need to offset the living costs against the cost of your IFoA exams and materials. 4 semesters at Lausanne will cost ~ £2,000 whereas IFoA exams and learning materials will cost ~ £8,000
    - Most Swiss insurance companies are based in Zurich where English is the working language. If you have a Swiss Masters I doubt you would have any difficulty getting a graduate role in Switzerland but perhaps someone who works in Switzerland could confirm?
    - There are ~ 1,000 roles advertised on Actuary Jobs, many of which are aimed at part-qualified candidates. I'm sure that the UK recruiters willing to take part-qulified UK candidates would also take fully qualified Swiss candidates
    - Any gap in UK knowledge will be most likely filled within 2-3 years of UK work experience. Also, the Swiss MSc does actually cover some of the ST subjects more succinctly, particularly ST2.

    I'm not convinced that the MRA devalues the FIA qualification. I think that the IFoA fail more of their students than necessary and also cover far too much unnecessary material (i.e. material that will have no relevance to their actuarial career). This naturally creates more work for students and makes the exams more difficult to pass which in turn creates a perception that the IFoA exam route must be of 'higher value'.

    The reality is that learning unnecessary material and using that material to narrowly pass exams (sometimes after several attempts) does not create a higher value candidate when compared with a system strips out all the unecessary stuff and instead trains their candidates in the relevant subject matter needed to be a successful modern day actuary.
  11. almost_there

    almost_there Senior Member

    For those with Fellowship from European countries, they get a choice of a year's work experience in UK or SA exam to obtain Fellowship here. These requirements are supposedly for 'adaptation' purposes, which would imply they've already met the competencies of FIA in their own countries albeit on the basis of their own country's actuarial rules and regulations and not the UK's.
    (The example I posted above on the lack of CP3 in Switzerland, and many others, totally undermine this position. It would be helpful if other members can carry out research so we come up with a definitive list of discrepancies.)

    Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these people take the year's work experience option and avoid SA exam. Wouldn't you?

    Of those who do take the SA exam option their success rate is even lower than the general pass rate of 40%. Again this indicates they haven't met the competencies as you'd expect someone adapting to do much better. Furthermore, doing the SA exam would be the quickest way to achieving Fellowship via MRA as can theoretically be done within 6 months whereas the work experience option takes a year.

    For those using MRAs with non-European countries then the option is year's work experience. No IFoA exams necessary. I ask how can this be the case when IFoA have failed to identify any exemption to SA or CP3 exams at these associations.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  12. almost_there

    almost_there Senior Member

    Indeed Viki. So in reality the people benefitting from this are those already in those countries because of the difficulties a British person would have to overcome before being able to pursue Fellowship in their countries. I believe this is indirect discrimination.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
  13. almost_there

    almost_there Senior Member

    I can see only two ways for this situation to be fixed and the MRA to be fair and have credibility:
    (a) IFoA strip out surplus material to be more in line with European syllabuses
    (b) IFoA maintain current material then re-negotiate the MRA such that European actuaries have to do more than a SA exam or a year's work experience to obtain Fellowship here.
    Dom B likes this.
  14. Geraldine

    Geraldine Very Active Member

    Yes, I don't for one second believe the standards are so similar that the process of transition or mutual acceptance should be this straightforward. The IFOA should do more to protect its standards and members - it feels like a dilution of the extreme effort we have to go through when you look at what others have to achieve (and by virtue of that, also use our credentials)..
  15. Dom B

    Dom B Very Active Member

    Exactly. And what is the likelihood that the qualifications of ~ 30 European countries are all pitched at the wrong level whilst the IFoA is pitched at the right level? Almost zero. In which case (a) is the only option.
  16. Viki2010

    Viki2010 Senior Member

    The 30+ European countries have different standards....some of which had only say 4 actuarial exams and got MRA. People would then sit 5 exams in total to get an FIA, lol :)
    Or say....get an MSc in Actuarial Science plus SA2, so only 1 exam outside of uni....
    Geraldine likes this.
  17. Viki2010

    Viki2010 Senior Member

    I'd say that the only standards that are in line with UK are the English speaking countries such as USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.....which UK having an additional CP3 as a special bonus :D
    Geraldine likes this.
  18. Infinity

    Infinity Ton up Member

    Has no one noticed that you are all arguing over nothing? The IFoA knows this too well. They are introducing the chartered actuary qualification and the plan is that the European AAE qualifications will all be pitched at our associate level in the future. This is a U turn on the current policy to award European and other foreign actuaries the fellowship. Watch the chartered actuary webinar online, it is full of comments about how other actuarial organisations "need to pull their socks up" etc. Apparently, other actuarial qualifications aren't even equivalent to the associate level... and this is not my say so, it is from the highly paid executives at the IFoA.

    It is such a joke working aboard. I can't keep up with my foreign colleagues since I have to sit in the library studying the worthless material which is so outdated and will never be required in my job and the exams are so difficult to pass unless you live like a hobbit and don't have a girlfriend, wife or family.
  19. Viki2010

    Viki2010 Senior Member

    Are you sure that the Chartered Actuary in the new system, being equivalent to the Associate Actuary is going to be equivalent to the Fully Qualified Actuary in the European countries? Where did you read about this?
  20. almost_there

    almost_there Senior Member

    Vicki, this is something IFoA should be asked to clarify. As it stands the Associate qualification only has an MRA with the Associateship qualification in Israel and Canada.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2019

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