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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Fancy going international?

T he world is getting smaller. The all-consuming trend of globalisation is dramatically changing people’s attitudes to where they work and live. More are keen to see the world and experience living overseas, at least for a few years.
There are many reasons for the accelerated growth in ‘international recruitment’: budget airlines, the growth of multi-nationals, mutual recognition, working from home, and the globalisation of salaries, to name but a few.

Budget airlines
The phenomenal success stories of airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair have thrown up some unexpected benefits for the business community. Whereas traditionally these airlines had targeted the holiday traveller, keen on a bargain flight to the Costa del Pollutedo for the price of a few glasses of Sangria, they have in fact opened up the possibility of commuting to work in another country for little more than the price of a train fare into central London.
UK employees can consider potential employers in major financial services centres such as Zurich, Cologne, Paris, Dublin, and Amsterdam without having to move home. They can nip down to the local regional airport for an early flight to the destination of their choice, put in a day’s work overseas and fly home in time for the late evening news. Some employees have been allowed the option of working from home Monday and Friday (see below) and, to compensate, putting in long hours on Tuesday to Thursday while they work abroad.

Multinational growth
With increasing globalisation, the majority of actuaries probably now work for multinationals with offices in various overseas countries. One of the benefits often touted by these companies is the option of a seamless internal transfer to an international posting. This has opened doors to foreign possibilities employees can change country without changing employer and employers can gain access to relevant personnel without the time, effort and expense of an external recruitment process.

One qualification, one world
The mutual recognition agreements signed by the various actuarial institutes in the UK, the US, Canada, and Australia have facilitated global trade in actuarial services, allowing actuaries and employers alike access to a professional marketplace on a scale not seen before.

Beam me up, Scotty
Broadband, video-conferencing, cheap flights, and the scarcity of suitably experienced personnel have encouraged employers to consider allowing employees the option of working from home as means of attracting and retaining valued staff. There are increasing instances of employees working from home a few days a week, and travelling abroad to their employer for the remainder of the week. Many of the old barriers have come down cost, lack of technology, culture and attitudes, and work practices. Now all that is left is the barrier of time travel and I look forward to the day when the command ‘beam me up Scotty’ is common commuting terminology!

Money, money, money
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 be aware of salary levels in these overseas markets. And while local conditions still have an influence, there has been a noticeable ‘internationalisation’ (upwards) of salaries and benefit packages. This is particularly the case for the more senior employees, who are often offered ex-pat packages while working abroad. Thus they get the benefit of living in a different environment and culture while being paid a home-country package the best of both worlds!

No speako da lingo
If you make the decision to move abroad, how do you find out about job opportunities in your chosen destination, particularly where there are language problems?
A good starting point is an international actuarial recruitment agency, ideally one with affiliate offices based overseas so they have local expertise. Even at a basic level the benefits are obvious. The agency:
– will know the main companies who would be interested in your skills and what jobs are currently available;
– can advise on what skills are in demand in your chosen market;
– can overcome any language difficulties;
– can help you with information on salary and benefit levels and work permit information;
– can provide guidance on writing a CV in the particular style that is preferred in each country eg in Australia and South Africa CVs are typically several pages long, compared to the preferred two or three in the UK.
All of this will save you days of research and can ensure that you are in the best possible position for being offered initially an interview because of your well-targeted CV, and then the job.

Which agency?
The following points apply equally whether you are looking for a role at home or abroad but become more important when it’s the international market that you are aiming for, as you are likely to have less knowledge yourself and are naturally more reliant on the agency.
Find one agency dealing with all of the actuarial employers in the region that you are interested in and can therefore manage the whole process more efficiently for you.
Ask around for personal recommendations actuarial friends or trusted colleagues who could give some feedback on agencies they have used.
Some agencies employ actuaries as recruitment consultants. These have the advantage of a technical background and so will fully understand your skills. They are also likely to have a number of personal contacts in the industry and therefore will have a good insight into the different employers.
Another option is to contact a few agencies. By talking to them about a particular market, you will quickly get a good feel for how much knowledge the consultant has and their level of experience.

What help can the agency provide?
Initial discussions
The first step in the process would be for the recruitment consultant to find out what you enjoy doing and whether a move is right for you. It is easy to be affected by a particularly bad period of work and, by exploring your reasons for looking elsewhere and asking searching questions; the consultant can assist you in deciding whether you really want to move. Also he or she should explore your reasons for wanting to move abroad and whether they are realistic, discuss financial, and cultural considerations with you and how the move could affect your future career path.

Research and knowledge of vacancies
By knowing the market and what companies are currently recruiting and advertising vacancies, the amount of research that you personally have to do is drastically reduced. Also, many companies take on staff for vacancies that are not widely advertised and in this instance, the recruitment consultant will know who is the best person to call to find out about such positions and will carry out this search for you.

CV-writing guidance
The CV is the first tool in marketing yourself to a company and so it is crucial that it accurately brings out your skills particularly transferable skills and strengths and targets the vacancies available. Having established which vacancies are available and matched up those with your preferences, the consultant can then provide detailed advice on putting together a CV.
This should be in the preferred format for the country concerned and won’t necessarily be the same as you would use for a domestic role.

Personal recommendations
Where a consultant has built up a good reputation with employers or via their own contacts, their personal recommendation will also help in gaining you an interview. This aspect can be enhanced where the consultant themselves is an actuary and hence has a certain level of credibility, as well as personally knowing the decision-makers.
Interview practice
Tips on interview technique and even the opportunity to practise interviews with the consultant can then follow. These can be invaluable, particularly if you have not had an interview for several years or have previously been turned down after interview and are not sure why. As a trained interviewer, the consultant can give you constructive feedback on how you are coming across, how to demonstrate your strengths effectively and even tips on what are good questions to ask. The consultant’s technical knowledge is also useful, as inevitably you will be asked actuarial questions in the real interview so it is a good idea to practise answering this type of question.

Salary negotiations
Many candidates find it hard to negotiate salaries successfully and again, this is a process where the consultant can negotiate on your behalf and raise any concerns or queries that you may have.
They will have a good feel for what is an appropriate level of salary for the position and so can ensure that you receive an appropriate offer.

Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time
To paraphrase from the Blues Brothers: ‘we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, an actuarial qualification, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.’ With a well-recognised qualification, the world is your oyster. The only limitation is your imagination a recruitment agency can’t really help with that, but it can help you with everything else.