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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Working overseas: International qualifications

Imagine this scenario. You are a trainee actuary in London and your employer offers you the chance to move to a new office in Hong Kong. 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 as a professional body need to respond.

While the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is primarily a UK body, our exams are taken by students around the world in their attempt to gain an actuarial qualification. We have around 10,500 registered students of whom just under half are based in the UK, with over 1,700 students in India, 700 in South Africa, over 550 in Ireland and significant numbers in China, Kenya, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Zimbabwe. We have student members in around 95 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 of the UK. Typically, 35-40% of entries are from outside the UK. With over 20,000 scripts written annually, the logistics involved in marking scripts are complex.

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries has always played a very significant role in both the Groupe Consultatif and the International Actuarial Association, 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, the Institute of Actuaries of India and the Actuarial Association of South Africa 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 that will be used to compare performance between the two bodies and over time.

We have agreed 17 measures for comparison and are now in the second year of data collection. Both the SOA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries have been able to re-examine their own processes in light of this detailed comparison and introduce improvements to their qualification processes.

Enterprising scheme
The UK Actuarial Profession is taking a leading role in the development of the chartered enterprise risk actuary (CERA) qualification, an international enterprise risk credential. In the UK qualification syllabus, a new optional subject, Enterprise Risk Management (ST9), has been launched at the specialist technical level. The syllabus and core reading, which is textbook-based, was launched in 2009 with the first ST9 examination taking place in April 2010. Other associations are using ST9 as part of their CERA awards so that ST9 has rapidly become a world standard for the CERA qualification.

International university accreditation
Since the 2005 Morris report recommended that we make more use of university expertise in the qualification process, we have introduced an accreditation scheme for universities, albeit with tight quality control to ensure standards. The scheme is now international in scope. We have accredited two universities in Dublin, as well as the University of Waterloo in Canada. We are currently accrediting the University of Hong Kong and are in preliminary discussions with other leading universities in China, Singapore and India. We are thus able to offer students in more parts of the world access to the qualification process.

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 of the UK the opportunity to qualify where we can do so cost-effectively. The benchmarking project and the CERA award 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 director of education for the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries


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