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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Working overseas: Global trends and opportunities

There is no doubt that the potential rewards from working abroad with different people, processes, systems and levels of expectations can be immense. However, deciding to take the big step needs to be prepared for, thoroughly researched and is one that justifies extended time with an expert.

Paul Walsh, chief executive officer Acumen Resources, says, while there are no guarantees of success, he would always encourage people to go: “It shows a different mindset and a willingness to think outside the box and try something new.” Where, then, is open for an actuary aspiring to hit the road?

Impact of Solvency II
Statistically speaking, ask any actuarial recruiter what the biggest issue is today and you’ll hear the words Solvency II. As Mark Dainty, director of High Finance, points out, the impact remains “relentless”. The effects have been well documented and have led to many highly skilled staff coming to Europe and the UK. Changes to visa regulations for the latter have made the situation more complex for those seeking work from outside the EU, but numerous opportunities still exist for suitably qualified candidates.

On the continent, despite the fact that historically it has not been so keen to embrace fixed-term contractual positions, it also remains the case that opportunities are out there. Mr Dainty explains: “Mainland Europe... I believe is slightly behind the UK, which I anticipate is going to lead to a big boom over the next six to 12 months.”

Leaving aside visa requirements, one persistent challenge remains. “In mainland Europe most of the big consultancies require fluency in the local language but not all,” says Ben Whalley, manager UK and Europe at Darwin Rhodes. “France and Spain tend to always require local language skills but some insurance and reinsurance clients have global headquarters in mainland Europe that are English-speaking.”

While Solvency II cannot be ignored, it should not be seen as the only issue on the map. One country that has continued to struggle has been the United States and, indeed, Dr Geraldine Kaye of GAAPS states the company is seeing far more enquiries from American actuaries than ever before. In the wider region, such as Bermuda, opportunities do still exist but where else can actuaries look to? The country touted to be the largest insurance market in the world within a decade appears the most obvious place to start, although anyone thinking of taking the plunge should be aware of the need to be fluent in Mandarin. Mr Dainty clarifies: “In China, the level of demand is increasing for any Western-trained actuaries with local language skills. There are opportunities out there and it is purely based on the developing economy.”

Broadening horizons
Further east, Australia is one country that, according to experts, suffered less than some in the global downturn. Lesley Traverso of DW Simpson suggests that, although changes in superannuation rules have impacted actuarial recruitment in particular, growth and regulatory changes mean the door is far from shut.

She adds: “Australian visas can be complex, for example regarding health conditions. Overall, companies are more inclined to sponsor overseas candidates now but locals will normally be preferred.” With South Africa rapidly progressing towards its own equivalent to Solvency II, this is also an area worth considering. “I’m sure there will be huge demand out there for people to relocate,” continues Mr Dainty. “South Africa will be the big driver over the next 12 months.”

Balancing the aspects of going abroad to enjoy new lifestyles and experience new settings with the issues of career progression and hard cash can often be a delicate matter. Countries such as Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are growing increasingly prominent on the radar, with tax breaks and a relative shortage of actuaries providing good opportunities.

According to Mr Whalley, being qualified is a pre-requisite as sitting exams is unlikely to be an option. But, he adds, for a qualified actuary there are many good examples for both life and non-life insurance for people being offered far more senior roles than they would be able to achieve in a more developed market.

“If someone is looking for career progression reasonably quickly, while the complexity of the market isn’t there, you are looking at a relatively wide amount of variety in terms of what you’ll be asked to do,” he says.

There has perhaps never been a better time to consider working abroad. Where? Well, that depends on mindset and willingness to try something new as clearly the question is almost not so much where is open to actuaries, but where isn’t?


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