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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Q&A: Joanne Gyte (Singapore)


02 JULY 2015 | BY JOANNE GYTE


Joanne Gyte


I grew up in (not so) sunny Glasgow, Scotland, and studied maths and theoretical physics at the University of St Andrews.

After nearly a decade in London, I relocated to Singapore two years ago to work as a consulting actuary, specialising in employee benefits at Milliman. The location is fantastic for two of my favourite things – travel and food. I get as many weekend trips away in the region as possible.

Why did you decide to study and work in this specific field?

I had a summer internship at Hymans Robertson. I loved it and wanted to come back.


Which actuarial society are you a member of?

I am a Fellow of the Singapore Actuarial Society, and also partially regulated through the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.


Which actuarial fields are most dominant in Singapore and why?

For various reasons, there are not many employer-sponsored retirement schemes here. This is partly cultural, and partly because the social security retirement benefits are good compared to other countries in the region. 


Tell us about the market that you work in? 

I work across Asia and in the Middle East. Although employer sponsored retirement benefits are limited in Singapore, there are established defined benefit promises in the wider region, such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Middle East. I work with employers from local companies and multi-nationals on their long-term employee benefit plans.


Is there an actuarial student society in Singapore? If so, what kind of activities does it organise? 

As a fully qualified member I’m not sure – but the Singapore Actuarial Society organises several social events each year. The most recent was a trip to Universal Studios on Sentosa island in Singapore. There are also soft skills-based events like public speaking.


Are you involved in any actuarial activities outside your day job?  

Working in a smaller actuarial community, the volunteer opportunities are really accessible. I co-chair the International Committee and sit on the Retirement Committee for the Singapore Actuarial Society. The International Committee hopes to raise the profile of the Singapore Actuarial Society internationally, and has a proactive relationship with the International Actuarial Association. In the Retirement Committee we contribute to public debate on retirement provision in Singapore. Separately, I recently ran a session on professionalism at the Practising Certificate day for actuaries in the insurance fields.


What are the social and economic drivers for actuarial work in Singapore? 

The main driver for employee benefits is compliance requirements for statutory benefits, but ex-gratia benefits also exist.With rising longevity and healthcare costs and a decrease in inter-generational support, there are many areas where actuaries could positively influence financial outcomes for individuals.


What’s the reputation of actuaries and the profession in Singapore?

I think we are a recognised and respected professional body. The society works hard to raise its profile through various conferences, committees, and providing input to authorities such as the Central Provident Fund, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. It also has its own set of professional standards. 


What are your views on the role of an actuary in the market you work in, now and in the future? 

Despite the demise of DB markets in the West, I think there will always be a role for actuaries in helping facilitate adequate retirement savings, wherever we are based. The role of DC plans will continue to evolve in many markets, as well as the UK.


In the UK the skill set of an actuary is being recognised across many non-traditional disciplines. Is this also true of Singapore? 

Newer disciplines such as enterprise risk management are as much a buzz-word here as in the UK. However, from what I have seen the concepts are mainly applied in the more traditional areas such as insurance firms.


What were the influences that shaped your career decisions to date?

Like most students I just wanted to qualify and get the exams out of the way. The biggest change was the decision to relocate to Singapore. I wanted to get broader experience and work in less established markets.


Could you tell us about your immediate and longer term goals?

For me it would have to involve leadership in people skills – with client relationships and the internal teams that I work with.


What do you say when asked: “What is an actuary”? 

An expert in long-term risk management.


How did you celebrate when you qualified? 

I qualified in July 2010 in London. Hazy memories involving a long, hot summer’s day, good company, cigars and a cheeky McDonalds on the way home.