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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Working overseas: Transferable skills

The actuarial qualification is one of the most mobile of qualifications because the International Actuarial Association Education Syllabus and Guidelines ensure that the same 10 subject areas are covered to an appropriate depth by all actuarial education systems around the world.

Once qualified, there are bilateral agreements for the mutual recognition of qualifications with the institutes of India, South Africa, Canada, the US, Australia and Japan. There is also a multilateral mutual recognition agreement covering all member associations of the Groupe Consultatif of the EU. Additionally, the actuarial profession is the first to have a single global qualification — CERA (Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary).

So, if you are considering relocating, what do you need to be aware of and take into account? The biggest obstacle to actuarial mobility and international recruitment is that of obtaining work permits as the UK, along with almost every country in the world, has tightened up its immigration policies. According to Tim McMahon of Commonwealth Immigration, “It is important to understand that immigration regulations are subject to change, often at short notice, depending on economic factors and political decisions. You need to be fully assessed by an immigration consultant to be sure you receive an up-to-date appraisal of your eligibility”.

However, there are many countries in the world that are very welcoming of qualified actuaries with the right experience. For example, although both South Africa and Malaysia produce many actuaries of their own, these markets remain buoyant as their own actuaries are highly mobile and determined to gain international working experience, thereby creating gaps and opportunities in their home countries as well as providing much-needed skills to the international actuarial talent force.

While there can be a tendency for employers to require business fluency in the language of the country, especially for client-facing roles, there are also many clients who do not require it, most notably Swiss and French companies. Many candidates ask which language they should learn. You should choose something you enjoy because it is very much a matter of fashion and, by the time you have learnt the language, the fashion is likely to have changed.

As well as taking language barriers into account, it is important to read up on cultural differences in the workplace between your home country and where you will be working. For example, with regards to formally applying for roles, the style of a CV and the information that it includes are culturally based and differ from region to region. In the UK a CV is typically two pages long; in South Africa it can be as long as 10 pages, while in Israel no more than one. The writing style can also vary — for example, in Holland it is typical to refer to your experience in the third person; “He did this” and “She did that”, whereas in the UK the typical writing style tends to be first person.

Another major difference is the nature of the personal information that you are expected to provide. In the UK and US, it is considered to be unprofessional to include information about your age and marital status. It is also illegal for the potential employer to ask about them or indeed any other personal information that might be considered grounds for discrimination. Elsewhere in the world such information may be expected and, if you don’t provide it on your CV, then you are likely to be asked why not, if and when you get to interview.

There is, however, a format for an international CV. It should be clear, concise and up to date, use reverse chronological order and include your contact information, qualifications summary, professional background, education and appropriate personal information. Always include any accomplishments, honours, languages, skills and anything else that could be beneficial to your employment.

Ultimately, relocation is a very personal decision and, no matter how carefully the move is planned, there will always be surprises. To avoid any difficulties it is recommended that candidates take a trip to the country they are considering, preferably combined with face-to-face interviews. This serves a two-fold purpose: it demonstrates commitment to potential employers as well as helping you as a candidate to come to the right conclusion.

Moving companies can be a big decision, moving across the world even bigger but, as an actuary, weighing up the risk involved is something you do every day.

Hannah Kaye works for GAAPS Actuarial


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