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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Careers: Australia for actuaries

Australia for actuaries – Part 2 (July 2008)
It’s been two months since I arrived and don’t worry, for this instalment I am definitely over my jetlag.

Institute of Actuaries Australia (IAAust)
I recently read that the IAAust initially started with seventeen members in 1897. It adds a real perspective of how the actuarial profession has changed. This is further compounded by the fact that IAAust has announced a change in the definition of “actuary”. The Institute will allow actuaries with associate level qualification to use the title of ‘actuary’ through which there will hopefully be a wider range of career options available to members. This represents and reflects the widening scope of the work of an actuary in Australia. (The change is to take effect in three years.)

Qualification process
I thought it would be usefule to highlight some differences I have noticed in the qualification process. It is made up of three parts – the first of which covers core actuarial subjects. The Australian examination system ensures close links with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in the UK because if you cannot gain or have not gained all exemptions from your university degree, you have to sit them through the exams run by the Institute of Actuaries in London.

Part II is made up of two exams and coursework undertaken with an accredited university. It can also be completed as part of an undergraduate degree. Part III is made up of four half-year courses which are run by the IAAust. In order to become a fellow, the IAAust also have a practical Experience Requirement and Mentor Program which all actuaries have to undertake. You also have to complete a two-day Professionalism Course in order to qualify as a fellow focusing on the Code of Professional Conduct and its practical applications, the ethical requirements of being an actuary and the dilemmas likely to be faced in practice.

Move your actuarial skills down under
Differentiate yourself: take the initiative. To stand out as a non-Australian to an Australian employer, it helps to come over and do face-to-face interviews. This will demonstrate your dedication to making the move. A family/friends connection could also help to demonstrate this and to make the practical move over a lot easier. If you can organise a visa or permanent residency, this will again demonstrate to employers that you are committed.

Competing against local Aussies in certain areas will obviously be harder than in others – for example, a UK pensions actuary looking for a role in the Australian superannuation arena may find it difficult. You will be bringing different market experience/exposure to your team and company. In terms of the length of an application process, I don’t want to say, “How long is a piece of string?”, but once an initial introduction has been made, the average time frame until your start date ranges from three to six months.

In our experience, some of the skills that have been particularly valued by our clients are Market Consistent Embedded Value; IFRS; DFA/Stochastic modelling and hands-on coding experience. Important note to remember: salaries are often quoted as total cost to company, including superannuation. (‘Super’ as it is more commonly known, is paid at a level of 9% of your salary by your employer.) The main point to keep in mind is that if you want to move to Australia and are looking for an employer-sponsored visa, you will have to demonstrate why you are more attractive than local candidates. If you have genuine motivation to make the move down under, the experience can enhance your actuarial career and lifestyle.

If you want to know how my adventure down under has been unfolding and see some photos, check out: http://actuarialgaaper.blogspot.com/

Sima Varsani is head of research at GAAPS Actuarial

Australia for actuaries – Part 1 (May 2008)
Ever considered heading to the sunnier climes down under? I have just taken an internal secondment to our Australian office in Brisbane. When I say ‘just,’ I mean that I am writing while suffering a certain degree of jetlag but I am hoping that this adds a sense of reality. Although I am head of research at GAAPS, this little project was definitely research-based, and this made it a much more personal one. I probably had a good starting block too – in terms of recruitment, working on an international level everyday – yet I don’t think I fully appreciated the complexity of such a move. Here I hope to give you a brief overview of aspects you may wish to consider if you are thinking about a move to Australia - it is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it provides you with a starting point for your own research.

First and foremost, get clear advice on visa requirements so you know exactly what kind of visa you need to apply for, what it enables you to do when you get there and how long it entitles you to stay. This can be a complex and confusing business, but the internet has various sites that offer helpful information. The visa that you get may affect your other benefits and entitlements while in Australia, for example tax. It is recommended that you get professional advice about this, so that you know exactly how your net income is worked out. The average working day (without overtime) in most offices (and shops) is from 8.30 or 9.30am until 4.30 or 5.30pm, with an hour’s break for lunch – though this does vary between companies. The basic annual leave entitlement for a full-time employee is 20 days.

The accommodation is generally quite spacious and most places have a swimming pool in the back yard (even in the city!). Medicare is the healthcare scheme for Australian residents and for visitors from countries with which Australia has reciprocal healthcare arrangements (such as the UK). You will need to apply for a Medicare card which enables you to claim back the costs of visits to your GP and certain hospital costs. The healthcare system is funded via the tax system by the payment of a Medicare levy of 1.5%* of your income. If you are entitled to a Medicare card then you must pay the levy, even if you are only a temporary resident. If your taxable income is greater than $50,000* you will pay an extra 1%* levy unless you have private hospital insurance. This Medicare levy is automatically deducted from your salary and paid by your employer to the tax office much like national insurance.

First impressions
In terms of my first impressions, it’s not like Neighbours! Brisbane strikes me as a bustling, cosmopolitan city. With the Brisbane River winding through, the atmosphere is different – it’s not easy to put my finger on – but it has a pleasant harmony. Whether you are just visiting or are making a permanent home, your trip to Australia should be an exciting and memorable one. All the research and planning before you go will be worthwhile if it makes the move easier. So, if working in Australia is part of your vision for the future, don’t just sit there, now you know a bit more, you can make it happen. The actuarial market is well-developed and can offer unique career exposure and progression opportunities. The market is perhaps more concentrated on insurance than in the UK, i.e. less on pensions and investment.

The feedback that we have received from the candidates we have placed in Australia is very positive in terms of the smooth transition from actuarial work in the UK to that in Australia. In our experience it has proved worthwhile for candidates to initially come over on holiday and have face-to-face interviews during this time, as it demonstrates to companies that they have a genuine commitment to move. When positions are offered, most companies provide comprehensive relocation packages. Australia has a well-deserved reputation for desirable working conditions and a high standard of living – I’ve had a good start and I am looking forward to exploring and discovering more of its wonder.

* At time of writing

Sima Varsani is head of research at GAAPS Actuarial