Future Fellows - December 2011
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The Universal Language
By Kudakwashe Chibanda, Candidate Representative to the Candidate Liaison Committee

A friend of mine loves to make fun of actuaries. She's an underwriter, and any chance she gets, she tells that joke about how to tell the difference between an introverted and extroverted actuary. According to her, actuaries have a very narrow scope of knowledge that can only be applied to a limited area (as if underwriters are boundless in their scope).

I always argue that because actuarial skills are a universal language that is spoken everywhere, we can literally pick up and move halfway across the world. To prove my point, I sought out actuaries who did literally pick up and move halfway across the world.

1. Rade Musulin
First up - Down Under. You can't go wrong with the Great Barrier Reef, kangaroos, and Hugh Jackman. However, my knowledge of the actuarial market in Australia was very limited. Luckily, Rade Musulin came to the rescue (that name will sound familiar to those of you who have taken Exam 6-U.S. as he authored the paper on regulatory acceptance of computer modeling). Rade is an American who moved to Sydney with his Australian wife and children. The move was for personal reasons but did not negatively affect his career at all. As a CAS Associate, Rade was able to get an excellent position with Aon Benfield, without needing to take any special equivalency exams.

Rade asserts one advantage of CAS membership is being "in an excellent position to move overseas, because the CAS designations are well respected and transferrable." Rade also notes that "a major advantage CAS members have is their focus on casualty in the education process." Australia's actuarial education is heavily centered on university courses, and the casualty, life, and pension practices are combined, so they have less casualty actuarial acumen than a typical CAS candidate in the States.

Another obvious advantage is the predominance of the English language, and the similarity of the corporate culture to that in the States.

As for the challenges, Rade notes that there is less regulation in the overseas industry. He also warns candidates of the requirement of U.S. citizens to continue paying taxes while living abroad. But even that is not enough for him to run for the first Qantas flight home. He thoroughly enjoys watching his teenage son put on a formal school uniform every morning—jacket and tie included.

2. Ronald Kozlowski
Next up, is a city-state known as “The Pearl of The Orient.” There we find Ron Kozlowski, who serves on the CAS Board of Directors. Ron majored in actuarial science at the University of Illinois (not because he knew he wanted to be an actuary, but rather so he could get first dibs on finance and math courses). Having attained his FCAS, Ron focused mainly on reserving and M&A. Like Rade, Ron moved overseas having lived and worked in the States for 22 years. He moved after his wife was offered an international position, and was able to stay with Towers Watson, leading their Asian non-life practice. Oh and if you're still scratching your head about "The Pearl of the Orient"—it is Hong Kong. You will be in good company if you make a move to Asia, because there are currently about 24 CAS Fellows practicing there.

Ron advises candidates to learn as many diverse skills as they can in order to keep abreast of the needs of different countries, which may not have as sophisticated a market as the U.S. For example, data is often more limited in other countries, where the property-casualty market is not as mature and developed.

The biggest challenge for Ron has not been the actuarial work, but rather dealing with the humidity of Hong Kong. In addition, Chinese food in Asia tastes nothing like American Chinese food. Lastly, and perhaps most unfortunately, he is a football fan who has had to acclimate himself to soccer and rugby.

3. Daniel Lowen
While in Asia, I spoke with Daniel Lowen, a former teacher and PhD student who then switched to Actuarial Science. Daniel decided to leave his comfortable condo in Cambridge, Mass., and move to India in 2010. He trains actuaries to support the U.S. practice of Ernst & Young, so he does not need to get a transfer for his FCAS. The P&C market is so highly regulated that the need for actuaries is reduced in India. However, the exam process is so stringent, that few people become qualified, such that demand remains high anyway.

If you are not a morning person, you might consider a move to Bangalore, where most people get to the office after 10:00. The office party scene is also quite robust for the social butterflies amongst you, with many celebrations organized for everything from reaching the billable-hours goal, to buying a new motorbike. You can leave your jacket and tie at home, because the dress code is more casual than in the States.

The challenges Daniel faces in India include the immigration process, which requires annual review. In addition, language can be a surprising barrier. Although English is the official business language, it is not uncommon for people to converse in their native tongues.

Daniel advises candidates to consider is how their career progression would be affected by an international move. For someone in the middle of their career, it is not always clear where they would fit into the structure if they decide to move back. For that reason, Daniel advises that candidates consider a move when they are ready to develop their management skills.

4. David Sommer
From India, we move along to its BRIC counterpart, Brazil. There, we found San Francisco native, David Sommer, FCAS. Like most, David became an actuary by chance by answering a classified advertisement after having studied math, economics, and teaching at Rutgers. After working for two insurance companies and a global consulting firm, Dave then moved to Brazil in 1999. David was the first of all the actuaries I spoke with who had an issue with the transferability of his designation. Brazil has a strict set of requirements for their appointed actuaries (including attending a Brazilian university). However, this has not hindered David's progress, as he explains that what has allowed him to work in the Brazilian market is "the superior technical training and business knowledge…whether in terms of pricing, portfolio evaluation, or financial analyses." Also, English is not the dominant language of business. When David arrived, his Portuguese vocabulary consisted of good morning, thank you, premiums, and claims. Brazilians, however, are very hospitable and he now speaks the language like a native.

As with the other actuaries I spoke with, David notes there is a much heavier presence on the life side, which creates the niche demand that enables him to flourish doing P&C work. In particular, David notes that Brazil has many areas of opportunity, by virtue of its burgeoning economy. As for the corporate culture, David notes that it is more hierarchical, although people are generally more relaxed and friendly. As he notes, "Brazilians understand that we work so that we can live, as opposed to live so we can work." And, of course, if you plan to move to Brazil, you better plan on centering your office cooler talks on joga bonito (association football).

5. Kyle Rudden
Most of us associate Caribbean islands as it relates to relaxing vacations and Carnival celebrations. But once I spoke with Kyle Rudden from Trinidad and Tobago, I also realized just how serious they are about their letters. Kyle is an FIA, FSA, ACAS, and a CPA. In addition, Kyle is the founder and CEO of KR Consulting, where he combines his varied expertise to provide a unique set of products to the growing actuarial market in the Caribbean.

6. Leigh Miselis
Everyone seems to want to visit Europe at some point. This was the case with Leigh Miselis, ACAS. She started off in international relations, but even after she switched to the actuarial world, she was drawn to Europe. So after joining XL Insurance in Hartford, CT, she “crossed the pond” to London (after an initial stop in Zurich, Switzerland). She earned her ACAS while in Zurich, which is evidence that you do not need to be stateside to lock yourself up in a library for 23 hours a day to study for exams. According to Leigh, "the great thing about CAS is that designations are recognized all over the world. I have met people of various nationalities who are taking CAS exams because they believe it allows them more flexibility in their professions." She also notes that "CAS-trained actuaries are well respected all over the world. They have a reputation of being technical yet practical. Some people find European actuaries to be more theoretical, as many are trained mathematicians."

One thing to note about moving to Europe is the immigration process. The EU integration has made it more complicated for Americans to work there. As for language, Leigh was surprised that in Zurich, professionals were eager to speak English in the workplace, despite their famed multi-linguistic abilities. Leigh notes that London (where you would expect to bump into Colin Firth in Finsbury Park), is actually very multicultural, and a melting pot of languages and cultures.

7. Annemarie Sinclair
I ended my search for actuaries in a part of the world I call home. Annemarie Sinclair, FCAS of Hollard Insurance Company spoke with me about what it was like being an actuary in Johannesburg, South Africa. Annemarie is a Joburg native, but her path to becoming an actuary was heavily influenced by North America; in particular Jacqueline Friedland (the same one who authored the Exam 5 reserving paper). Friedland worked in South Africa in the 1990s and her mentorship was so impactful, that Annemarie decided to pursue a CAS designation over the local designation. She has also become a Fellow of the South African Actuarial Society, based on her CAS designation. She did not have to write any equivalency exams, although she had to familiarize herself with the different regulatory market. Recently CAS has become very prolific in Southern Africa, which is an advantage for Annemarie.

If you want a more theoretical and technical base, then South Africa is a good place to start. There is less regulation, and most insurers use fairly sophisticated GLM models, especially in personal lines. Solvency II is becoming more prevalent there, too, as South Africa's economy grows and becomes more advanced.

As for the lifestyle, Annemarie notes that actuaries are in the top 2% of earners in South Africa. In addition, the weather is so nice (think San Diego) that the dress code can be very casual (people came in wearing the national soccer team jerseys during the world cup). The office culture is such that people speak English during business hours, particularly if there is someone who does not understand the native languages. Once you hit the cafeteria, however, don't be surprised to hear Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans spoken.

Of course, the rising political tension in South Africa is a concern for Annemarie. If she does have to make a move because of it, she has no doubt she will be able to find suitable employment anywhere in the world.

So there you have it. There really are actuaries in every corner of the world (well, almost. I have to admit I could not find an actuary in Antarctica). The reason we are scattered across the earth is because we are able to adapt our skills to any part of the world. So the next time someone makes fun of you for having limited communication skills, you can rest assured knowing you speak the most boundless language of all—the language of actuarial science.


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