Q&A Malta: Jean-Paul Shipley
Jean-Paul Shipley has worked in the life market of Munich Re for the past two years. He lives in the traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk in the south-east of Malta
01 JULY 2012 | THE ACTUARY EDITORIAL TEAM
Explain what motivated you to seek employment overseas
I had been in the UK for eight years and wanted to experience working and living elsewhere in Europe, so decided to consider the possibilities.
How did you find the role you are doing?
I had been considering a few roles in Europe, via a recruitment consultant. She provided options that matched both my requirements and those of my prospective employer.
What attracted you to Malta?
Initially, I had discounted the opportunity, as I was considering continental Europe, but after discussing it with the recruitment consultant, I agreed to a more formal interview followed by a long weekend in Malta with my wife.
In the interviews, I got a sense that the people I would be working with were dynamic and flexible, with a can-do attitude. Working in a small office where I would be exposed to issues and challenges on non-traditional business also appealed to me.
What challenges did you face when moving overseas?
The majority of Maltese people speak English, so the transition was easy for my family and me in that respect. If the move had been to Spain or Italy, I think the language difference challenge would have been tougher.
What are the main differences working overseas compared with the UK?
The big difference is the limited number of actuaries in Malta, so there is a need for greater self-reliance and the good judgment to know when to get assistance. Fortunately, Munich Re has a wealth of experience to draw on.
What is the most topical issue facing actuaries in the country where you work?
As with most countries, it is Solvency II
What is the best thing about where you work?
My work colleagues have been great, and I’ve learnt a lot from them. The four individuals who set up the company are leaders in their respective fields, so I’ve been provided with valuable experience.
This has helped me to appreciate the bigger picture. Actuaries can easily become bogged down in detail.
And the worst?
Rain coming in through our windows. Malta has sun for 300 days of the year, but there are usually a couple of wet and windy days.
Tell us an unusual fact about the country in which you work.
Malta, Gozo and Comino combined have 366 churches, so you could visit a different one every day of the year.
What are the key attributes an actuary or actuarial student would need to work in Malta?
Flexibility – the ability to adapt to varied circumstances. The business I consider is normally non-traditional, so every deal needs to be considered on merit.
Do you have any advice for others looking for overseas work?
An international work experience can build character. The events that define your life are often the toughest ones, and actuaries are fortunate to be in a valued profession in which our skills are easily transferable worldwide.
Numerous opportunities are available for actuaries. It is important to make the most of these, particularly in countries where there are fewer actuaries and your skills are valued.
Would you describe yourself as a global actuary, and why?
Yes. My current role involves evaluating business deals from Canada to Japan, South Africa to Latin America. In considering the structure of these deals, we have to fully understand the local requirements and environment, so I need to consider things from a global perspective.
Where do you call ‘home’?
Home is wherever my immediate family is, so, for now, it is Malta. I do have some family in the UK and in South Africa, so I still have strong ties there, too.
What is your favourite local custom/tradition, and do you join in?
My favourite is the feast of lights in Birgu, a tiny village overlooking the harbour of Valletta, which has narrow, stone-walled streets. Each year it holds a food/music festival, during which the village is lit by thousands of candles.
Have you learned a new language?
Not quite. I know a few key Maltese words, and can hold a basic conversation.
Have you taken up a new sport/pastime?
Lifeguard and jellyfish-spotter. My two children are very young, so when we go to the beach I spend all my time watching them and on the lookout for jellyfish. I also manage the odd round of golf, and some mountain-biking, when I can.
How often do you read The Actuary magazine? Do you read it online or
Every month I read the online version first, as the print version generally arrives about a month later.
Do your colleagues read it?
My actuarial colleagues value it just as much as I do.