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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Working Overseas: Case studies

Gus Williams,
reinsurance pricing & research actuary,
Manulife Financial,
Germany


What prompted you to make a move abroad and what attracted you to this region?
I found my work was getting repetitive in the UK. I chose to take on the greater challenge of moving abroad. I had been working for a reinsurer in Germany at the time, so this was an obvious choice.

How have you gained from the experience?
Working abroad creates new and exciting challenges. You learn a great deal from confronting your comfort margins and coping with new situations. It has rounded me out as an individual, and will contribute to my future success.

What is the demand for actuaries?
If you have some sound realistic balance sheet experience, then you are like gold-dust. However, unless you are a fluent German speaker, you would be better off applying with an international insurance group.

Was your existing skill-set sufficient?
Technically, yes. However, the very different culture requires a different approach to proposing and implementing ideas.

What has been the biggest challenge?
Learning German. It can be frustrating and demoralising when you struggle to convey even the simplest ideas, or follow the simplest instructions. Now I really enjoy being submerged in a different language.

Did you encounter any practical barriers?
The German civil bureaucracy has a reputation for being difficult to deal with. It helps to do your homework in advance.

What advice would you give to others considering a stint overseas?
Just do it! You will be both better prepared, and recognised as being better prepared, for another move.
And what’s your next move?
Possibly North America or Asia. My employer is good at rotating and challenging staff.

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Samreen Asif,
Actuarial head,
Aviva,
India


What prompted you to make a move abroad and what attracted you to this region?
Although I moved back for personal reasons as I always wanted India to be my home, the timing was quite appropriate. Insurance business is growing exponentially and there is so much one can do to give shape to the industry. India also happens to be the key market of nearly every multinational company.

How have you gained from the experience?
Good business awareness. A close look at the functioning of a life insurance company, from designing products to preparing for board meetings and a chance to be at the heart of it all!

What is the demand for actuaries?
Companies usually have four or five qualified actuaries who work in three broad areas of pricing, statutory valuation and shareholder reporting. There is a demand for qualified actuaries, especially with experience in shareholder reporting and business planning.

Was your existing skill-set sufficient?
Yes it was.

What have you found the biggest challenge?
To be able to think on my feet. To keep pace with the continuously evolving insurance industry.

Did you encounter any practical barriers?
Being Indian myself, none at all. There is a large community of happy non-Indians who do not seem to have any such issues!

What advice would you give to others considering a stint overseas?
Take the plunge, especially if the overseas industry is in its nascent stages. The challenges are stimulating and the learning opportunities are unlimited.

And what’s your next move?
I am staying on for some time to help build a strong actuarial team.

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Andy White,
QBE,
Australia

What prompted you to make a move abroad and what attracted you to this region?
An opportunity arose to work on a very interesting project and I was offered a six-month secondment to Sydney to work on it. I had become used to the sunshine, beaches and the lifestyle so when I was asked to consider staying on it wasn’t too difficult a decision.

How have you gained from the experience?
A lot! The actuarial approach is quite different over here, both in terms of the techniques used and also the focus due to different legislation.

What is the demand for actuaries?
Very strong as there is a high level of statutory responsibility on actuaries, and the workload only ever seems to increase.

Was your existing skill-set sufficient?
It gave me a good basis but there was also a pretty steep learning curve. I wasn’t too familiar with the PPCI method and there was also a lot of new jargon to learn.

What have you found the biggest challenge?
Getting my head around Aussie rules football.

Did you encounter any practical barriers?
No, I was lucky that my company sponsored my visa application and helped me find a place to live.

What advice would you give to others considering a stint overseas?
Be prepared to throw yourself into it, both in a work context and socially. It can be pretty weird to not have your friends and family around you. Another ex-pat told me the first year is the hardest and they were right.

And what’s your next move?
I don’t have plans to move but you never know.