Jonny Plews reports on the results of a recent salary survey of actuaries in Asia, how IFoA Fellows compare and why
Some months ago, during a meeting with Derek Cribb, chief executive of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), it was decided to undertake a salary survey of actuaries in Asia to understand how the fortunes of Fellows of the IFoA compare to those of other professional bodies. The goal was to raise awareness of the popularity of the UK profession throughout the continent.
For many professionals contemplating a career move, one of the most common considerations is salary. It is therefore no surprise that one of the most frequently asked questions is "what is the market rate for my experience?" and that the majority of these people are interested in maximising this number.
Many of the generic salary guides published online are vague and ignore the many variables of life. So to answer the question accurately, albeit in a rather uninformative manner - you are worth whatever a company is willing to pay you. If salary is high on the priority list, a more suitable question should be "Which companies would be willing to pay me the most?" A Fellow of the UK profession need look no further than the Asian markets.
Within Asia, there is a rapid increase in the demand from insurers for skilled actuaries. The multinationals are growing, the local firms are developing in complexity, and each year new companies are being formed. However, it is not just actuaries that are needed, it is those with the ability to communicate complex actuarial concepts in layman's terms to non-actuaries. Firms nowadays are using actuarial analysis as an integral component towards their general strategy, and to add to this, actuaries are working in an increasingly wide variety of functions - finance, risk, marketing, strategy, research and so on.
There is no shortage of actuaries in Asia, but finding those with the right communication skills is difficult. Actuaries there have traditionally worked in back office statutory-focused roles. Combined with the fact that English is most people's second, third or even fourth language, it is clear why many actuaries in Asia lack this proficiency. To meet this demand, employers look elsewhere around the world, and as a result many actuaries are relocating. There remains, however, a shortage of actuaries with these skills.
The UK qualification is designed to teach students to communicate complexity, through both the exams and in practical application. This skill may be taken for granted in the UK, but in Asia it is a rare talent that employers are looking for. Of course there are also many actuaries from other parts of the world who naturally have this skill. However the level of training provided through the UK qualification provides an advantage.
The salary survey covered 883 qualified actuaries based in Asia and the results are summarised in Figure 1.
On average, the annual salary for a UK actuary in Asia was £13,000 higher than for the US equivalent, and £6,500 higher than the Australian. On top of this, UK actuaries in Asia were the highest paid in each post-qualification experience bracket compared to the others. The results were as we expected.
Jonny Plews is managing director of Oliver James, based in Hong Kong