Q&A with Clifton Frei – Director of Client Development at DW Simpson

Read the latest industry updates and events.

Clifton joined DW Simpson in 2014 and currently serves as the Director of Client Development. His primary role is to act as a bridge between the firm’s clients and the recruiting staff, gaining an understanding of their needs, and communicating their value proposition to recruiters so that they can accurately and effectively convey it to candidates. Below are some of his thoughts on the current market.


How has the current market for actuaries changed over the last year?


“We might be as busy as we have ever been.” This was a reoccurring line that came up on many of my client calls at this time last year. Candidates were actively looking for new positions and clients were still in the process of filling openings that had been put on hold by the pandemic.


We are still quite busy today, but the forces at play have shifted a bit. Some candidate activity is being driven by return-to-office plans which conflict with the flexibility that many actuaries have grown to expect in the past few years. It’s not all about wanting to work from home though. Remote work has given candidates access to opportunities for career growth and professional development they would have previously had to relocate for.


On the client side, hiring has level-set to a certain degree, with a greater mix of openings due to growth rather than replacement or a longstanding need that was put on hold. We are also partnering with a good number of new clients and clients we haven’t worked with in a while in order to help them fill their onsite roles.


Advancements in technology continue to drive new openings. Previous years cohorts of insurance startups have finally reached the stage where they are building out actuarial departments, while new entrants are looking for their first in-house actuary to ensure that they are on a sustainable path to growth.


In addition, many companies that had declined to be earlier adopters of new modeling platforms or more advanced analytics are now in the midst of actuarial transformation or modernization projects which requires an influx of talent to provide subject matter expertise.


What do you see as the biggest challenges for companies looking to hire top actuarial talent?


Much of the competition we are seeing today is being driven by the ongoing trend towards remote work arrangements. Companies that were previously limited to local talent or candidates who were willing to relocate can now tap into a nationwide pool of qualified individuals. Clients in large population centers who have made significant investments in their physical space over the years can no longer count on people who are willing to make a commute, especially if they can find other opportunities to work from home.


We are also seeing increased compensation levels from where they were a year ago. Companies have to compete with each other on compensation, but also with counter offers from current employers.


We are also witnessing the continued growth of the actuary as a key voice within their organization, with leadership and communication skills increasing in importance. Whereas before these skills might not have become critical until the upper stages of one’s career, now more junior and mid-career actuaries are finding themselves with more outward facing responsibilities. Competition for these more business minded actuaries is high, as not all actuaries have the opportunity to develop these skills.


What I tell clients is that no search is impossible, but how long a role might take to fill is based on how flexible you can be in one or more of these three key areas:  location, compensation, and skillset. This might sound obvious, but it can be helpful to view each of these factors as an adjustment lever for calibrating your search.


What are the perks or benefits that can make an offer stand out?


We are seeing more candidates who are looking for both short- and long-term incentives. They would like to feel rewarded and recognized for their day-to-day work, but at the same time they would like to feel like a company is also making a long-term investment in them. Long-term incentives also increase an individual’s feeling of ownership and responsibility for the success and prosperity of an organization.


Beyond money matters, candidates have come to expect more flexibility with regard to work schedules. During the pandemic many discovered that working from home a few days a week or setting their own work hours allowed them to be both happier and more productive.


This extends to time-off arrangements as well, with more people understanding the value of stepping away from work every now and then and needing increased flexibility for PTO to stay refreshed and to avoid burnout.


How important are remote/work opportunities in finding top talent?


While we are seeing more employers who are asking their people to return to the office, the overwhelming preference of candidates is still to work from home. Moreover, willingness to relocate is perhaps at an all-time low.


It’s not all bad news if you’re looking to bring your people back together in a physical space. There are some candidates who have tired of remote work and miss in-person collaboration. There are still others who recognize that a particular role represents a unique opportunity and is worth making a move for.


What I tell clients in this situation is that it’s all a matter of time. It will take longer to find a quality candidate who is willing to relocate or return to the office, but it is by no means impossible. One just has to weigh the consequences of leaving a role unfilled versus making allowances for remote work.



What are the top reasons that candidates give for seeking a new role?


These haven’t changed much over the last few years, with the exception of candidates who are active because they are being asked to return to the office. Generally, candidates are looking because they feel undervalued or underpaid, or because they feel stagnant in their current role and want an opportunity for professional growth. Sometimes that means increased leadership responsibilities, but in the actuarial world it just as often means they are looking for new intellectual challenges. Many want to grow or develop their advanced analytics skills or gain experience in startup or insurtech environments.


If you would like to discuss your hiring needs with Clifton, please email him at Clifton.Frei@dwsimpson.com