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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Working overseas: Australia - Matt Noyce

Matt Noyce,
consulting,
insurance,
reinsurance,
Matt Noyce Consulting,
Sydney, Australia
— seven years

Explain what motivated you to seek employment overseas
Shortly after I qualified as an actuary, I took a one-year career break to travel through China, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. Sydney struck me as being a great place to live and work. I actually knew the moment I arrived in Sydney that I would end up living here one day.

How did you find the role you are doing?
Shortly after my return to the UK, an opportunity arose to work for Swiss Re Australia in Sydney. I had previously worked for the firm in the UK, and also spent three months working for them in Sydney during my year of travelling. I think it definitely helps to understand the culture of the company that you are joining before you move to a different country and Swiss Re was very supportive in helping me make the transition to Australia.

I was chief pricing actuary at Swiss Re Life & Health Australia for four years, and then joined CommInsure as chief pricing officer. I set up my own consulting business about a year ago — working for myself is something I have wanted to do for some time and business has been good so far.

What attracted you to the region?
Sydney is a great place to live and work. There are not many cities in the world where you can pursue an actuarial career, live close to beaches and national parks and enjoy fine weather. Australia is also a great place to bring up children.

What were the main challenges you faced when moving overseas?
Naturally, there is the need to learn about a new market quickly, but it’s no different to the challenges associated with taking on any new role. Being separated from family and friends back home can be difficult, and is one reason why some expats only stay in Australia for a few years and then return home.

What are the main differences you have found to working overseas compared to the UK?
There is definitely more of an ‘outdoor’ lifestyle in Australia, because the weather encourages it. I’d say Australian actuaries work at least as hard as their UK counterparts, though. People tend to start work earlier in the day, compared to the UK. I had visions of going surfing before work when I moved to Sydney — the beach is a 10-minute walk from my house — but the reality was that I just started work earlier.

I’d say there is a more informal atmosphere within the actuarial profession in Australia, which is refreshing, and this particularly comes across at conferences and other events. Despite the informality, Australian actuaries are no less career-focused than their UK counterparts and, as a fellow of the Institute of Actuaries Australia, you have to complete 40 hours of CPD per year, which is more than the UK requirement.

What is the most topical industry issue facing actuaries in Australia?
The proposed changes to regulatory capital requirements for insurers are stimulating a lot of discussion and debate. Also, the government recently announced its proposed financial advice reforms. These will eliminate the payment of commissions on the sale of life insurance products within superannuation (pensions). Also, financial planners will no longer be able to receive commissions from providers of investment products.

What is the best thing about where you work?
Sunshine and proximity to the beach. Getting the ferry to work always puts you in a good mood. Barbecues. Vegemite. Australian wine and food.

And the worst?
Curries are not as good in Sydney as they are in London. Don’t get me wrong, you can still get a good curry in Sydney, but it’s not on a par with London and definitely not as spicy.

Give an unusual fact about the country in which you work
The rise of the Australian dollar is interesting. When I first moved to Australia, £1 was worth about AUS$2.5. Today, it’s worth AUS$1.5. Also of note is the extraordinary array of poisonous spiders and snakes that live in Australia — I don’t think a continent needs that many venomous creatures, not that you encounter them that often in Sydney.

What are the key attributes an actuary or actuarial student would need to work in your role and region?
Working as an actuary in Australia is not very different from the UK really. I’d say the key attributes required for moving to Australia would be an open mind and a willingness to accept that some things are different.

Do you have any advice to others looking for overseas work?
I was single when I moved out here so it was quite easy to move, whereas now I have a young family. I think it would be much more difficult moving overseas with a family; that said, I know some people who have moved across with their families quite successfully and decided not to return to the UK.

Most people come to Australia on a four-year visa initially (known as a 457), which is provided by the employer. This is the most straightforward and quickest way of working in Australia on a semi-permanent basis.

If you want to become a permanent resident of Australia then it definitely helps to have an employer that will sponsor you, as it is more difficult to do this alone. Alternatively, for those under 30 and just wanting a taster, the working-holiday visa might suffice. Also, be aware that Australians use the phrase ‘whinging Poms’ — said with good humour, but no whinging allowed once you get here!

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Further reading: Working Overseas

This special supplement looks at career opportunities for actuaries around the world, and how to plan for a move abroad

Features
Emmanuel Kenning - Global trends and opportunities
Trevor Watkins - Actuarial qualifications
Hannah Kaye - Actuarial skills travel well
Andrew Smith - Lecturing in Armenia and Albania

Region focus
Mark Dainty - United Kingdom
Jan Sparks - Europe
Wilhelm de Wet - South Africa
Luke Hawkins - Asia

Case studies
Switzerland - Alex Summers
Spain - Carl Haughton
South Africa - Bjorn Landewig
South Africa - Ashlin Noonan
Nigeria - Alexandre Aquereburu
Hong Kong - Paul Murray
Hong Kong - Mark Stamper
Indonesia - Chris Lossin
Bermuda - Amy Guna
Australia - Matt Noyce
Australia - Ashley Palmer