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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Feeding the Celtic tiger

Ireland’s booming economy has led to significant talent shortages that cannot be met from the domestic market alone. Actuaries are in big demand. If the tiger is to be kept fit and healthy then international recruitment will become key.

Go west young man!
The world is truly getting smaller and people’s attitudes to where they will work and live are changing dramatically. Whereas a job in a high-growth market like east Asia might have traditionally seemed like an indeterminate exile,
it is now a potentially shrewd and enriching step in a high-flying career.
Rather than considering why they should travel, actuaries are now asking themselves why they should stay. No amount of talent and ability can overcome a lack of real opportunity in a given market. Actuaries who view their potential employer market on a global scale are getting access to an incredible range of skills and experience with major global financial institutions. They can expose themselves to the excitement and energy of a high-growth economy, the business and culture of a major financial player, and the experience of a role that they could not undertake in their domestic market.
In addition, recent mutual recognition agreements were signed by the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the Institute of Actuaries of Australia, and the Society of Actuaries in the US. These agreements will facilitate global trade in actuarial services, allowing actuaries access to a professional marketplace on a scale not seen before.

International recruitment as a solution
Ireland’s booming Celtic tiger economy has led to dramatic talent shortages in almost every major industry as institutions struggle to scale up in order to meet increasing market demand. The actuarial profession is no exception in this regard. The additional success of Ireland’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin has placed an even greater strain on available actuarial resources. Domestic and IFSC-based institutions are increasingly turning to international recruitment as a solution.

Finding talent through networks
The key role of international recruitment agencies is to source talent from abroad. One of the main tools that they use is a database network of affiliates around the world through which the right talent can be matched with the right roles. It means that the search for talent can be conducted quickly, and on a broad scale.
This network enables actuaries around the world to identify and assess opportunities outside their own local market easily and efficiently. By sharing common practices and techniques, the networks can ensure that a particular client profile is suited to specific international roles, resulting in fewer surprises or potential disappointment, for both clients and employers.
This network concept has allowed domestic recruitment agencies to gear up their operations and join the global trend, whether by finding talent for their own market or supplying talent to international markets. Indeed, it has become an essential tool for any agency in meeting the demands of multinational clients.

Using the Internet
The arrival of the Internet has created an additional powerful tool for international recruitment agencies. It gives them instant access to the global market for talent, a platform from which they can provide an exceptionally quick yet confidential service, and all at a reasonable cost.
By creating well-managed websites, the search for talent can be brought directly to the individual in a non-intrusive and casual environment. People interested in working internationally can discreetly make their own enquiries and searches through the Web before directly approaching agencies.
By looking at a given agency’s website, people can assess the type of roles the agency is offering. Such an assessment would cover location, job description, and benefits. They would also get a feel for the business the agency may specialise in examples might be consultancy or contract work. A good website can also give a basic feel (I emphasise the word basic!) for the way the agency operates and conducts its business.
Email allows agencies to update potential clients anywhere in the world on new positions and opportunities in a fast yet fully confidential manner. Without necessarily wanting to make a career move in the short term, clients can keep in real-time contact with the global recruitment market. If something interesting comes in, they can decide whether to pursue it further.

Is Ireland becoming one big financial services centre?
Dublin’s phenomenally successful IFSC offers a location from which a wide range of financial services business can be conducted with the benefit of a 10% tax rate. Since the creation of the IFSC in 1987, Irish authorities have shown a commitment to develop this initiative by implementing an impressive programme of legislative change designed to challenge perceived barriers to its development. This has culminated in the proposed introduction of one low tax rate of 12.5% for all institutions operating from Ireland (IFSC and non-IFSC based) in the year 2003, potentially turning the island into one big IFSC!

Big names, big plans
One of the most striking recent features is the number of big-name global financial players using the IFSC as the base from which to develop their pan-European businesses. This includes major life and general insurers, reinsurers, and asset managers looking to sell their products across Europe through partnership arrangements with local distribution channels. Growth rates can be phenomenal. There are many examples of offices in the IFSC expanding from a starting staff of fewer than ten to well over 100 within two years, and some where the numbers total well over 1,000.
It gives Ireland-based actuaries a unique opportunity to get in on the ground floor with quality financial institutions that have the brand name and financial muscle to build successful businesses selling into the European market.

Seniority of roles
While the IFSC presents opportunities to actuaries at all levels, the number of senior roles being filled is particularly noteworthy. Fully qualified actuaries with over five years’ experience are taking up positions such as chief executive, chief financial officer, and appointed actuary, while actuaries with two to five years’ experience are managing sizeable business units. This has been a tremendous opportunity for Irish actuaries in particular, who might have been forced to look abroad in the past to find such positions.

As the barriers to travelling come down, salaries go up. Employers increasingly find themselves competing for employees interested in working in a variety of different countries and therefore the company has to take notice of salary levels in these overseas markets. And while local conditions still influence, there has been a noticeable ‘internationalisation’ (upwards!) of salaries and benefit packages.

And now for something completely different
As well as providing traditional actuarial opportunities, the IFSC has created a huge variety of alternative roles for actuaries working in Ireland. There is a strong emphasis on product and marketing innovation through a variety of European distribution channels attracting actuaries who enjoy the cut and thrust of a brave new sales environment.
Actuaries who want to broaden their professional skills base and gain experience in wider fields have a choice of roles in structured finance, venture capital, asset management, and financial reinsurance.

Knock-on effect for the non-IFSC market
The strong growth of the Celtic tiger has led to a significant scaling up by domestic Irish institutions, creating even more demand for actuaries of all levels, particularly in the product and marketing disciplines. A good sign of this growth has been the rise in Irish and international actuarial consultancy firms setting up offices in Dublin to service domestic and IFSC-based insurance companies. Again, more opportunities for Ireland-based actuaries!
Should I stay or should I go?
Ireland’s high-growth economy, and its strategic position as a platform to develop into European markets, offers actuaries tremendous opportunities that they might not have in their local market.
With the rise in globalisation, actuaries are becoming much more critical of the rationale for only working in their own local market. The ability of international recruitment agencies to keep in closer ongoing contact through the Internet and email has strengthened this issue.
Demand for actuaries in the Irish market far exceeds the supply at all levels, providing great opportunities for both junior student and senior actuary alike. The next step is up to you !