Moving from the UK to Qatar, you need to adapt to several major cultural and other differences. The first and most obvious is the climate; just deal with it
Change is found not just in the visible new forests of construction and their spreading undergrowth of roads, much is happening behind the scenes too. In a country where more than four-fifths of the resident population is expat, conditions for the masses of manual workers are being overhauled. The respect for culture extends to supporting many new parks, museums and art galleries. Health and education have been prioritised for locals and expats alike.
Qatar's increasing reach extends to sports, being a favourite winter training ground for several marquee football teams. Sporting events include regular golf and tennis professional tours and recently hosting the world short-course swimming championships, the handball world cup and, yes, a certain football tournament in a few years.
A country once dependent on the petrochemical dollar is strategically growing a diversified economy, which includes financial services, primarily banking but also an insurance industry rooted on international standards of regulation and operation. Cue a small but growing band of actuaries. The call for actuaries to enter the Middle East market is being fed by a variety of home-grown and imported in-house actuaries supplemented by regionally-based consultants.
In recognition of their growing numbers, the IFoA recently helped actuaries in the region establish the Gulf Actuarial Society (GAS) as a regional actuarial society. Despite its start less than a year ago, GAS will soon have hosted the chief executive and then the president of the IFoA at its inaugural two meetings. The visits somewhat reflect the Middle East's geographical situ between Europe, Africa and the Far East given they were stopovers on route to further destinations, but it also signals the region's growing punch in the world economy, not just through the oil price.
Mark Cockroft is chief actuary at Qatar Re and moved to Doha with his family in the middle of 2013. There is no return date set. He is a founding committee member of GAS. These are his personal thoughts.