International mobility has a new set of champions: actuaries. With demand for their skills staying strong in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, and with local talent pools easily depleted, actuaries are moving between these markets and relocating from outside the region.
Insurers are expanding their Asia Pacific operations and the need for actuaries, a must-have function in life, general and reinsurance, is keeping pace. Regulatory changes – most notably the EU Solvency II Directive, due to come into effect in January 2014 – are also driving recruitment at both insurers and the consultancies that advise them.
“There has been a steady growth in the insurance sector as a whole, so the need to acquire actuarial talent extends beyond our shores,” says Patrick Tan, principal consultant, Key International Search. “We are starting to compete with regional markets to bring good actuaries at all levels into Singapore.”
The same holds true in Australia: Insurance firms look locally first, but hiring international professionals is not uncommon, says Louise Taylor, managing consultant, insurance division, Enigma HR. “As with any roles in insurance, it will also depend on the company policy on having to pay for relocation/visa sponsorship, but the skills are quite transferable, particularly if they have worked in the UK, South Africa or some of the Asian countries.”
Why actuaries are international
Actuaries can typically change countries more easily than many other financial professionals because their main qualifications – such as the FIA, FSA and FIAA – are internationally recognised, although they also take further examinations to be admitted into their new country’s actuarial society. Most of their core skills are numerically, not regionally, focused.
Most overseas-based candidates who apply for APAC roles have actuarial science degrees from top universities. “Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada produce quality graduates, and they go into actuarial roles with international insurance firms where they receive good training,” says Tan.
He adds that Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan are also hunting grounds for Singapore-based employers. “The actuarial function is one where firms are more than happy to look abroad.”
James Carss, managing director, Asia, Darwin Rhodes, says that in Hong Kong consultancies and European life companies mainly hire actuaries from Europe, while American and Canadian life insurers are more focused on North American candidates.
Not all foreign actuaries will be considered – for example, there are enough local graduates to fill most entry-level positions. “However, certain jobs, like actuarial programme modelling, require unique experience and such people are not available in abundance here, hence the need to scour the regional markets for suitable candidates,” adds Tan.
Carss says pricing actuaries find it less easy to move because their expertise and regulatory knowledge are more location specific. “But if you are a valuations or risk actuary, your skills are naturally transferable.”
AIA, ACE Life, Ageas, HSBC, Manulife, MetLife, Prudential, RGA, Swiss Re and SunGard are all hiring actuaries in Asia, according to a recruiter who asked not to be named. Reinsurance Group of Australia is among the most aggressive in the actuarial job market Down Under as it expands its business.
Taylor reckons that an increase in actuarial hiring in Australia over the last year has been mainly driven by the consultancy firms. Similarly, adds the anonymous headhunter, there is demand in Asia from Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG.
The Big Four are hiring actuaries to work on specialised products, strategy and M&A advice, and in areas where insurers require a third party from a regulatory perspective, says Carss. He lists the main advantages of joining a consultancy as: “More upside on basic and bonus potential, more strategic work, and experience of working with very senior individuals within the industry.”