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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Working overseas: Recession? What recession?


GAAPS Australia was set up in 2006 and quickly established itself as one of the leading actuarial recruiters across the entire Asia Pacific region. We work very closely with GAAPS Actuarial, our UK parent, providing UK-based actuaries with opportunities across Asia Pacific. The flow of actuaries across the international markets has increased so rapidly over the last 10 years that half of GAAPS’ fee income now comes from international operations.

The setting for rebirth
For many ambitious actuaries, gaining international experience is now seen as a stepping stone towards senior management, and the Asia Pacific region is seen as one of the most attractive destinations. While many Western economies are still in the doldrums, Australia has managed to avoid recession and countries across Asia are still experiencing economic growth, presenting actuaries with excellent career opportunities — the year of the ox is rewarding those serious about seizing them! Here we’ll take you on whistle-stop tour of the hot spots of opportunity in Asia Pacific, how to make an impression, and what to expect when you get there...

Hot spots
Mainland China is tipped by many leading economists as the setting for the rebirth of global economic growth. With close trade ties, China, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore are excellent launchpads for an international actuarial career. The choice between these locations may come down to how far you wish to move away from the ‘Western’ way of life.

Making a move to China requires a good deal of cultural awareness and often fluency in Mandarin. However, Hong Kong and Singapore offer more of a mixture of East and West. Where Hong Kong has a similar buzz of activity as, say, London, Singapore has a slightly more relaxed pace and is less densely populated. Both of these locations host some of Asia’s largest regional actuarial departments — offering great diversity within teams and roles.

Australia has faired well in the crunch, and still offers stability in both the financial markets and in lifestyle. While local market knowledge is advantageous, Australian employers recognise the quality of both the actuarial qualification and experience of their UK and Ireland counterparts.

Remuneration and cost of living
Remuneration and cost of living vary across the region, and you need to factor in issues like tax rates and accommodation. Both Hong Kong and Singapore have favourable tax rates (in comparison to the UK). This year, we have noticed a trend for employers to move away from expat packages, except for some senior appointments.

Making the dream a reality in 2009
Companies have had the luxury of more applicants — local and international — so this, combined with budget scrutiny, means that you need to do more than just express interest in making the move abroad to stand out from the crowd. As an international applicant, the key is to take the initiative and demonstrate clear commitment to the move.

If you are genuinely considering a move, then it might be an idea to plan a holiday to explore the actuarial market and your chosen destination further. We can discuss opportunities and options with you and arrange meetings to get you in front of potential employers. This will give you the chance to demonstrate reasons for your choice of location; and to highlight the value, experience and knowledge that you bring compared to a local candidate.

Although relocation packages have not been entirely removed from the equation, you have a greater chance of landing that dream job if the employer does not have to allow for that extra cost. The number of actuaries who have moved to the Asia Pacific region has increased tremendously over the past decade — but it can be a time-consuming business. If you want to make your move work, you need to ensure you have done your research.

The feedback we receive from candidates who relocate to Asia Pacific is that there is real opportunity to gain the exposure in a variety of responsibilities that can propel you into a senior role more quickly.

Contact us
The speed at which we are filling many of our vacancies means some opportunities only appear online. So register on our website as this will pre-empt basic interviewing, and allow us to contact you more promptly and provide a more efficient service.

Marcus Vaughan is managing director of GAAPS Actuarial Pty Ltd in Asia Pacific.