With IT Jobs Watch reporting that actuary consultants are earning an average daily rate of around £600, and average earnings for actuaries in 2014 increasing by 6.7% compared to 2013 (2014 survey for the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries), it comes as no surprise that many actuary professionals are considering working on a contract basis.

As an actuary, you will be used to managing risk, and if you are thinking about taking your skills and working on a contract basis, this page will help you assess the risks and benefits involved in working in this way, how to find work, expected rates of pay and how to efficiently operate as an actuarial consultant.

Advantages of Working as an Actuarial Consultant

Some benefits of working as a consultant include:

  • Higher rates of pay - Actuarial consultants can often command higher rates of pay than permanent employees. Consultants are often seen as an attractive option for some companies as there are no long term commitments required and no obligation to pay employee benefits such as pension contributions or sick pay. Accordingly, consultants are in a good position to command a higher rate of pay than employees could expect, in order to compensate for the fact that they do not have a guaranteed income or additional benefits. We have developed a Contractor Calculator which will provide you with a clear idea of how much you could be taking home as a contractor.
  • Flexible working hours - Consultancy work also offers great flexibility and you will have the option to pick and choose your working hours to fit around your personal life and other commitments.
  • Opportunities overseas - Actuaries have skills which are required by companies all over the globe. With British standards seen as amongst the best in the world, British actuaries may find that they are in a strong position when looking for work overseas. 

  • Expand your skill set - Through working on multiple projects, you will be exposed to more situations, and could acquire more new skills than you would if you were a permanent employee. Working on a contract basis will boost your CV and make you a more attractive candidate when looking for contract work in the future.

Finding Work as an Actuarial Consultant

The most obvious way to find a contract is by using the services of some of the numerous specialist recruitment consultancies devoted to actuaries, some of these are: 

  • Acumen Resources - Based in Ireland, Acumen Resources place actuary professionals in permanent and contract positions throughout Ireland and the UK. 
  • The Actuarial Recruitment Company - Established in 2004, The Actuarial Recruitment Company recruit for positions in the UK and overseas. 
  • The Emerald Group - After originating in the UK, The Emerald Group now have offices across the globe and place professionals in positions both in the UK and overseas. 
  • GAAPS Actuarial - A specialist global recruitment agency specialising in the actuary profession, GAAPS place both permanent and consultancy staff in positions throughout the UK and across the globe.

Other ways of securing a contract could be through networking, many contractors use this option first as usually over the years of working as a permanent employee they have built up a rather comprehensive portfolio of contacts. Just a simple email or call to these contacts could result in a contract or they may know someone else who is looking for an actuary contractor.

How to Operate as an Actuarial Consultant

Once you have found your first contract you will need to decide on the best way to operate. The two most common ways to operate as an actuarial contractor are through an umbrella company, or by forming your own limited company. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options and the best route for you will depend on, how long you are planning to contract, the daily rate of your contract and your personal preference. Before committing to one method it is worth speaking to an accountant to see what they feel would be the most tax efficient way of you operating.

What is an Umbrella Company?

Hate admin? Then working through an umbrella company may be for you. The umbrella company will handle all the administration associated with your contract, such as invoicing and chasing payments. It will calculate what tax and NI contributions you should be making, obtain payment from the company and pay you accordingly.

An advantage of this method is that the IR35 legislation doesn't apply. This method also allows new contractors to decide whether contracting will work for them – there is less commitment than in setting up a limited company. In return for their services, however, the umbrella company charges a fee, which makes operating under an umbrella company the least cost effective way to operate. If you would like to see more information on what an Umbrella company is, you can visit our extensive Guide to how Umbrella Companies work.

What is a Limited Company?

Dependent on the value of your contract, for example if you expect to turnover more than £25,000 in a year, your accountant may advise you that the most tax efficient method of working is to operate through your own limited company. This method allows you to have full control of your finances, so you will not be waiting on a third party (an umbrella company) to collect your contract rate and pay it onto you.

There are also extra financial opportunities for tax planning, as you could take your income through both salary and dividends. Limited companies act as a completely separate entity to you, so all personal finance and assets are safe, which means there is low risk for the individual. We have produced a comprehensive first timers guide for new company directors, click here to view this guide.

Forming a Limited Company

Forming a limited company is far more straightforward than you might think. All you need are details of at least one director, one shareholder, a company address and your desired company name. Nixon Williams offer a free company formation service to all new clients, which includes business bank account set up, PAYE and VAT registration and will advise on the optimum share structure for your company. For more information call a member of our new business team on 01253 362062 or email newbusiness@nixonwilliams.com.

Do I Need an Accountant?

As a limited company director, you will have a certain amount of administration that you will need to complete every month, so it would be in your best interest to appoint an accountant as they will be able to help you with your taxation requirements. When appointing an accountant, you may wish to consider a firm that specialises in contractors and have experience in dealing with issues which directly affect them, such as IR35.

If you are still undecided on which option will be best for you, give us a call, as this is where Nixon Williams can help. We can help you decide which option, umbrella or limited company, is best suited for you.

For an informal discussion with a member of our team, please call 01253 362062 or email newbusiness@nixonwilliams.com who would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.