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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Working overseas: Transferable skills

Imagine this scenario: you are a trainee actuary in London and your employer offers you the chance to move to a new office in Malaysia. You have always wanted to work in Asia, but you also want to qualify as quickly as possible. This is an increasingly common situation as actuarial employers go global, and we need to respond.

While the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries are primarily UK bodies, our exams are taken by students around the world in their attempt to gain an actuarial qualification. We have around 9600 registered students of whom just under half are based in the UK, with over 1000 students in both India and South Africa, over 500 in Ireland and significant numbers in China, Kenya, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Zimbabwe and Romania. We have students in over 90 countries overall, so we are a truly international examining body.

For each exam session, students sit exams in around 120 exam centres and over 80 of these are outside the UK. Typically 35-40% of entries are from outside the UK. With over 20 000 scripts annually, the logistics involved are complex and the system works because of the dedication and support of volunteer examiners and an excellent administration team in Oxford.

Thus, in our example above, we would be able to offer the trainee the same choice of subject entries overseas as in the UK and the route to qualification would be unaffected. This is because the UK qualification has a high reputation around the world as a sound means to prepare actuaries who are fit for purpose.

The Faculty and Institute have always played a very significant role in both the Groupe Consultatif and the International Actuarial Association (IAA), both of which have core syllabuses that are covered fully by UK qualification subjects. This means that those who qualify in the UK are likely to be able to undertake actuarial work in many countries worldwide, subject to any additional local requirements being met.

We also have bilateral arrangements with several countries so that part-qualified students can transfer in or out of the UK and gain relevant exemptions rather than having to start again. In particular, we have mapped our syllabuses with those of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) (along with the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Canadian Institute of Actuaries), the Institute of Actuaries of Australia and the Institute of Actuaries of India, so that students can move between the different systems if necessary. In addition, we have mutual recognition agreements to enable qualified actuaries to transfer between associations in different countries.

Benchmarking success
We work hard to retain and build on our international reputation, for example, by trying to ensure the syllabus is not UK-specific and is thus relevant internationally. We are currently engaged in a benchmarking study with the SOA which is another actuarial association with a significant international examination operation. This study involves comparing exam processes, identifying similarities and differences and constructing a dashboard of metrics which will be used to compare performance between the two bodies and over time.

Further associations have indicated a desire to be involved once the metrics are agreed. The benchmarking project has been commended by the Professional Oversight Board (POB) in its most recent report on the Profession, as it provides objective measures of quality in the qualification process.

Enterprising scheme
The UK Actuarial Profession is taking a leading role in the development of an international enterprise risk qualification. In the UK qualification syllabus, a new optional subject, Enterprise Risk Management (ST9), is being launched at the specialist technical level. The syllabus and core reading, which will be textbook-based, have been agreed and completed, and the first examination will be offered in April 2010. It is intended that this subject will enable the UK to meet the requirements for the new Global ERM Credential once these have been finalised.

As risk management is seen as a growing area for actuarial employment, a new associate-level qualification route will be available which substitutes ST9 for CT5 (Contingencies) for actuaries who want to use the associate qualification to work in risk management. By taking ST9 as one of the two ST subjects en route to fellowship, the Global Credential will also be available to qualifiers once established.

The UK Actuarial Profession is a key player in the international actuarial arena, particularly so in the qualification process. We intend to continue to offer candidates outside the UK the opportunity to qualify where we can do so cost-effectively. The benchmarking project and the Global Credential are examples of the UK retaining a key role in actuarial education internationally as well as ensuring that, when actuarial trainees move between countries, they can continue to take exams so their travel time to qualification need not be affected.

Trevor Watkins is head of learning for the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries.