Francesca Mills followed her husband to Dubai for his work. Although she didnt have a job prepared, she was happy to trade her British lifestyle for sunnier climes. However, the move gave her the chance to work in sectors that would not have been open to her and, two years later, shes still not regretting it
A land of opportunity
Francesca Mills followed her husband to Dubai for his work. Although she didn't have a job prepared, she was happy to trade her British lifestyle for sunnier climes. However, the move gave her the chance to work in sectors that would not have been open to her and, two years later, she's still not regretting it
Explain what motivated you to seek employment overseas.
My husband and I relocated for his job.
How did you find the role you are doing?
I moved over without a job and spent two or three months exploring my options. At the last minute, just as I was about to join a different company as a life actuary (my area of practice in the UK), a recruitment firm called to tell me about the Munich Health role. From our first meeting it seemed like the right fit.
What attracted you to the particular country that you are working in?
Having spent three decades in Britain, the sunshine was a big draw! For nine months of the year, Dubai enjoys a perfect climate and the lifestyle that goes with that.
What were the main challenges you faced when moving overseas?
This has to be one of the easiest countries to relocate to - it is set up to welcome expatriates. The major frustrations arose from arriving under my husband's sponsorship. It meant I needed his formal permission to do absolutely everything. He even received a notification every time I made a purchase from our joint account! Thankfully, I'm on my own visa now. In a work sense, I expected being female to be more of an issue in a Muslim country, but that hasn't been a challenge. There are differences across the region, but I've not found the UAE to be discernibly different from the UK.
What are the main differences working overseas compared with working in the actuarial profession in the UK?
Dubai's population is over 90% expatriate and the mix of nationalities is immense. One has to be respectful and understanding of different cultures. The working day begins at 8am and can be long, but my work-life balance is far better than in the UK. It helps that my 'commute' takes 5 minutes and that the beach is right on the doorstep! From my own experience, there is more opportunity to prove yourself in a completely new role.
What is the most topical industry issue facing actuaries in the country where you work?
In my field, I think it is the ever-changing regulatory landscape. Each country in the region has its own regulatory regime. We see huge differences between Abu Dhabi's forward-thinking Health Authority and Dubai's less proactive equivalent, creating two very different health insurance markets in geographically adjacent Emirates. We know that Dubai will aim to catch up and that big changes could be right around the corner!
What is the best thing about where you work?
Variety. I get involved in almost all aspects of the business, from underwriting, through medical research and disease management, to financial forecasting. I like that I'm applying the range of actuarial skills to different scenarios every day.
And the worst?
I'll never get used to starting the working week on a Sunday!
Give an unusual fact about the city in which you work.
Dubai's ultra-rapid expansion has left a few glaring omissions, such as the absence of street addresses!
What are the key attributes an actuary or actuarial student would need to work in your role / country?
Excellent communication skills. I've found my ability to phrase complicated things in a simple way has really been tested.
Where do you call 'home'?
Home will always be York.
What is your favourite local custom / tradition and do you join in?
Whilst Dubai is very tolerant of non-Muslim cultures, Ramadan is strictly observed and it definitely changes. I like that the more spiritual atmosphere lends itself to reflection. I have attempted to fast for a few day to show support for my colleagues.
Have you learned a new language?
Not yet. English is spoken everywhere and appears on all signs, but some Arabic would be useful and show a commitment to the region, which expats in Dubai sometimes struggle to convey.
Have you taken up a new sport / pastime?
I've qualified as a fitness instructor. I meet amazing new people every day in my classes.
How often do you read The Actuary magazine? Do you read it online or in print? Do your colleagues read it?
I read it every month - it is a welcome break from the computer. It is important for me to keep up with the latest actuarial developments from the outside world.