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Actuaries Abroad
Professionalism in Zagreb
By Steve Lehmann and Bob Conger 

Across the globe, actuarial associations require their members to participate in professionalism training. While the form and specific content of professionalism courses vary from country to country, all of them touch on the characteristics of a profession, the professional roles of actuaries, regulatory roles of actuaries, practice standards, codes of conduct, and the discipline process. An actuary trained in one association would immediately recognize the course content if he or she were transported suddenly to a professionalism course in another part of the world or a different specialty.

Actuaries from Southeast Europe—Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia—gathered in Zagreb, Croatia, for two days in October. The event was co-hosted by the International Actuarial Association (IAA) and Hrvatsko Aktuarsko Drustvo (the Croatian actuarial association); and chaired by Tarmo Koll of Estonia, who chairs the IAA Advice & Assistance Committee; and Chris Daykin of the Institute of Actuaries in the U.K. and Chief Executive of the IAA Fund. The first day included approximately 30 leaders of the actuarial profession in these countries, most of which have launched actuarial associations within the past 15 years following the emergence from communism and the division of Yugoslavia. The day included an exchange of information about insurance, regulation, and actuarial matters in each country, and brainstorming about how the actuarial associations in the different countries might collaborate to leverage their resources, ideas, and activities, as well as the resources available from the global actuarial community.

During the first day of the regional gathering of actuaries, we learned that most of the insurance business (and actuarial work) in the region is property-casualty, which reflects the property ownership and vehicle usage that have grown with the region’s economic development. The culture of saving and financial planning that would lead to the growth of the life insurance business has not matured as rapidly. Not surprisingly, given the young profession in the region, most of the actuaries themselves are young as well. Interestingly, 80% of them are women—several of them explained to us that this type of work tends not to attract the men in their culture.

Day two was a professionalism seminar, for which the participant count swelled to about 70 actuaries, primarily by the addition of young actuaries from Croatia, the vast majority of whom work in Zagreb. Chris Daykin ably led the seminar. It was very interesting to be a participant and facilitator, particularly to hear how the challenges and issues of the case study discussions played out in the context of the business and regulatory environment of the local actuaries and their employers.

It was a pleasure to have had the opportunity to participate in this event, which culminated in a delightful travel adventure with our wives. Our personal adventure included the fascinating and beautiful ancient walled cities of Dubrovnik, Korcula, Split, and Trogir along the Adriatic coastline, a side trip over dramatically rugged limestone mountains into the country of Montenegro, and winding up at the inland capital of Croatia. During our time in Zagreb, we headquartered in a modern hotel on the edge of one of the string of jewel-like parks that provide lovely spots of refuge in the midst of the modern bustle and vibrancy. These refuges coexist comfortably with buildings that date back 700 years. At all hours of the day and evening, human and canine citizens of all ages enjoy walking, bicycling (humans only!), sitting, and playing under the massive sycamore trees that shade the walkways. In contrast to the ancient edifices that abound in this part of Zagreb, a modern light-rail tram whisks commuters and visitors around the sprawling city. Beautiful open squares among the low-rise buildings provide venues for colorful open air markets for farmers, craftsmen, and other vendors—our favorites were the vividly colorful varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables. The city’s broad sidewalks offer numerous outdoor cafes, which are wonderful spots to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the universally well-dressed and smartly coiffed citizens, who are either strolling comfortably taking in the sights of the city or walking purposefully to an appointment.

Throughout our meetings in Zagreb, we were tremendously inspired by the energy, enthusiasm, and insights that all the participants brought to the discussion of the present and future of the actuarial profession here. And we were reminded once again of how many common threads, opportunities, and challenges cross the boundaries of country, actuarial association, specialty and language.

We have so much to share and learn with our colleagues around the globe.

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