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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Working Overseas: Australia - Ashley Palmer

I have recently taken on the leap of moving overseas, from living and working in Bristol to a new life in Sydney, Australia.

The first obvious change, beyond average rainfall and temperature, is the differences in retirement provision in Australia, for example the requirement for employers to contribute — a regime that is to be introduced in the UK over the next few years.

Most are aware that in Oz the term ‘pension’ is replaced by ‘superannuation’ or just ‘super’ (not to be confused with unleaded petrol). So the challenge for me on moving is to transform in to a SuperAnn Man — obviously, not the first superhero you might expect to call on in an emergency. But there are plenty of demographic time bombs about to detonate.

Having thought about this more, what are the key traits of a successful superhero?

Extraordinary powers, skills and/or equipment — well, having completed all of the actuarial exams to become a fellow and being a proud owner of my trusted Casio FX-85, I think have this one covered.

A confidant, usually a supportive friend or relative who has been sworn to secrecy — this would be my wife Ruth.

A strong moral code, including a willingness to risk one’s own safety in the service of good without expectation of reward — no comment (and I thought that the Actuaries’ Code seemed onerous in places).

A supporting cast of recurring characters — my colleagues!

A number of enemies that are fought repeatedly — in my opinion, these would be systematic over-confidence in predicting the future, the general financial ignorance of the public at large and the misrepresentation of risk.

A headquarters or base of operations, usually kept hidden from the general public — this definitely doesn’t apply to our skyscraper office in Sydney near the Harbour Bridge

A weakness or Achilles’ heel — what, only the one? Okay, well, I did struggle to pass ST5. Thankfully, then, I am mortal after all.

If you are thinking about moving to work in Australia then, among various other aspects, from my experience these are the things you should seriously think about:

>> Being a long way from friends, family and your favourite football team (rearrange order as appropriate).

>> The cost of living, particularly the rental market and some foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. The latter is materially offset if you qualify for Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA), which is a tax subsidy whereby rent and an allowance for food costs are Australian income tax deductible, which can make a big difference.

>> The exchange rate which has changed markedly in recent years, particularly if continuing to be paid in sterling.

>> Cleaning all shoes before you travel, as on environmental protection grounds, mud and dirt is not permitted to be imported.

>> Applying for your visa early as it can take an average of one to two months. It is a rigorous process to navigate, thus involving a registered immigration specialist is advisable.

>> Having adequate private health insurance to meet visa requirements

>> Bringing plenty of beachwear, as such items are expensive to buy once in Australia

>> Snakes, although you get your fair share of these in any city!

>> Finally, but most importantly, take care in the sun and remember to slip, slop, slap!

Ashley Palmer is a senior consultant and actuary at Aon Hewitt


Further reading: Working Overseas

This special supplement looks at career opportunities for actuaries around the world, and how to plan for a move abroad

Emmanuel Kenning - Global trends and opportunities
Trevor Watkins - Actuarial qualifications
Hannah Kaye - Actuarial skills travel well
Andrew Smith - Lecturing in Armenia and Albania

Region focus
Mark Dainty - United Kingdom
Jan Sparks - Europe
Wilhelm de Wet - South Africa
Luke Hawkins - Asia

Case studies
Switzerland - Alex Summers
Spain - Carl Haughton
South Africa - Bjorn Landewig
South Africa - Ashlin Noonan
Nigeria - Alexandre Aquereburu
Hong Kong - Paul Murray
Hong Kong - Mark Stamper
Indonesia - Chris Lossin
Bermuda - Amy Guna
Australia - Matt Noyce
Australia - Ashley Palmer