Puneet Nayyar provides a taste of what it’s like to work as an actuary in this south-east Asian nation
I left Indonesia late last year, having lived there for nearly nine years. I had a very memorable time during that period, and am excited to share my experiences with other actuaries who might be considering career opportunities in this amazing country.
Indonesians are known for their politeness and warmth, and they love their food – so the best way to make connections is to meet people over a relaxed lunch and be polite and respectful. You will learn a lot more about people and what drives them through these interactions.
Since Indonesians are culturally very polite, you have to be careful, as most of the time you won’t hear a direct ‘no’. You need to develop the art of reading between the lines and then reconfirming the message. Also, Indonesian society can be hierarchical, and many people won’t speak up in meetings if their managers are present unless they are asked to do so. I used to spend a lot of time going around the table in meetings and encouraging people to speak up.
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, with around 280 million people, and almost half of its population is under the age of 30.
The Indonesian insurance market is underpenetrated and there are a lot of opportunities in its growing insurance and financial sectors. Any young actuary moving to Indonesia should expect their mandates to increase over time, as the supply of actuaries is much smaller than the demand.
Considering this demand-supply gap, it is important to spend a lot of time growing and retaining actuarial talent. This is aligned with the expectations of the country’s Ministry of Manpower and its financial services regulator, the OJK, which wants expatriates to have a detailed roadmap for developing their identified successors.
Any foreigner joining in a non-board role is required to give a presentation to the OJK with a detailed plan for training their staff and successors, with the aim of preparing a local person to take over the role in three to five years. The Ministry of Manpower generally expects companies to be very selective in hiring expatriates, so it may be difficult for accompanying spouses to find a job.
Apart from developing local actuaries, a lot of time also needs to be spent in attracting good graduates to the actuarial profession. We used to go around universities with alumni actuaries to introduce students to the profession, although students are now more aware of the profession thanks to various initiatives run by the OJK and the Indonesian Society of Actuaries. In addition, a sizeable number of students go overseas for actuarial degrees and then return to Indonesia to start their career.
One regret for me is not having picked up the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia, during my time in Jakarta. I never felt any pressing need to do so because all official communications in my company were done in English, but looking back, I realise that fluency would have helped me to contribute more to the profession and the local actuarial society. I would strongly recommend that expatriate actuaries moving to Indonesia invest their time in learning the language.
There is so much to see in Indonesia other than the popular destinations such as Bali; I would recommend getting recommendations from locals for places to visit. We spent a lot of long weekends exploring various parts of the country and staying at places recommended to us. Each experience was delightful and will stay with us forever.
I’ve worked in various countries during the past 20 years, and would never have thought at the beginning that I would spend the longest period in Indonesia. Initially, we had agreed as a family to spend two to three years in this delightful country, but somehow that duration kept on extending and we ended up spending such a long period there. We made some great friends and will cherish these fond memories from Jakarta forever.
I would advise any actuary who is thinking about a move outside their home country to go for it. There is a steep learning curve initially, but once you are settled in, there are substantial growth opportunities.
Puneet Nayyar is chief actuary, Asia at Sun Life
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