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Actuaries Abroad
A Report from China—September 2011
By Bob Conger 

On behalf of CAS President Ralph Blanchard, I traveled to Xiamen, China in mid-September 2011 to participate in the annual meeting of the China Association of Actuaries (CAA).

The actuarial profession in China continues to progress at an impressive pace. About a decade ago, approximately 75 people (including me and many non-local actuaries) attended a comparable seminar. This year organizers had to limit the attendance to 500, carefully allocated among the various insurance companies and consulting firms in China. The growth is expected to continue—the CAA Vice Chair reported that actuarial students took 9,000 CAA exams this past spring!

The CAA has made significant progress as an organization as well, establishing its education, professionalism, and other systems sufficiently that CAA was admitted as a Full Member Association of the International Actuarial Association (IAA) earlier in 2011—an accomplishment the CAA leadership quietly celebrated during this year’s meeting.
<em>The author (center) with Jenny (Zhenzhen) Lai (left) and Rita (Qian) Tao (right) enjoy an evening banquet, which was part of the festivities held during annual meeting of the China Association of Actuaries.</em>
The author (center) with Jenny (Zhenzhen) Lai (left) and Rita (Qian) Tao (right) enjoy an evening banquet, which was part of the festivities held during annual meeting of the China Association of Actuaries.
   

I was very impressed with the level of the presentations at the CAA Annual Meeting. We began with a small tea ceremony in which the foreign dignitaries met privately with the senior leaders of CAA. We enjoyed gracious thanks for our assistance in the development of the profession in China and for our continued interest, and we congratulated the CAA and its leadership team on their accomplishments to date.

The first day of the meeting consisted entirely of plenary sessions, most of which addressed important high-level topics such as ERM, systemic risk, capital requirements, and global macroeconomic and demographic trends. All the presentations were in Chinese, but I was able to follow along thanks to graphs and charts, a smattering of English actuarial phrases, and gentle translation from actuaries sitting next to me.

Day 2 was split into separate Life and Non-Life tracks, with about one-fourth of the attendees participating in the Non-Life track. Most of the Non-Life presentations focused on pricing and underwriting, including several sessions on predictive modeling, telematics, and business segmentation. The FCAS designation was in strong evidence, including two speakers on Day 1 (Shaun Wang and Biao Charles Jin), both Non-Life moderators on Day 2 (Zhenzhen Jenny Lai and Dehong Xu), seven  presenters on Day 2 (Zhenyong Zhang, Guanjun Jiang, Wei Zhang, Guangjian Alex Zhu, Zhenzhen Jenny Lai, Yin Lawn, Sen Chen), and perhaps 20-25 other attendees with the designation. This degree of active participation by CAS members was noteworthy, as they accounted for about half of the total 15 property-casualty (P&C) speakers.

In addition to the CAA meeting, several senior CAS representatives held a meeting with faculty and students in the Mathematics College at Xiamen University. The university has had some activity in actuarial science over the past decade or so, but not a major emphasis until recently. Now, one fulltime professor is focusing on this area, and is being supported by part-time efforts of several other faculty members as well as visiting professors and visiting lecturers. We entered the math building to find the hall outside our meeting room thronging with at least 50 students, around seven faculty members, and a dean. For two hours we talked about P&C actuarial work and the profession, learned about the university’s ambitions, and fielded many questions. The students expressed a real interest in the P&C field and in working with the CAS to incorporate P&C content in the university’s curriculum as well as to make the P&C field accessible to students.

 We also enjoyed an informal dinner one evening with more than a dozen local CAS members. It was a delightful opportunity to get acquainted, and to share a tasty meal served family style in the center of the table. And we talked business as well, discussing several areas of interest to the local actuaries, including:

  • Acknowledgement that the language barrier makes the CAS exams, particularly essay questions, extra challenging for nonnative English speakers.   
  • The desire for a “regulation” exam that would be more relevant to CAS candidates who are living and working in this region.   
  • The appetite for both in-person and virtual mechanisms to facilitate the networking, social connection, and professional development of the local casualty actuaries.   
  • The feasibility of seminars sponsored or co-sponsored by the CAS in China, including perhaps a couple of recognized experts or senior lecturers from the U.S. to speak at the event.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks to Jenny Lai for her spirited ideas and efforts that leveraged my time and energy in useful and enjoyable ways; thanks to Scott Yen and Ron Kozlowski for their leadership in helping the Asia Regional Committee work for the benefit of our members and interests in China; thanks to Pat Kum in the Actuaries Office in Hong Kong for her help on logistical matters; thanks to the local actuaries for extending me such a warm welcome and allowing me to enjoy a sense of belonging; thanks to Raymond Su for sharing a fun Saturday of tourism with me and for helping with my transport; thanks to the CAA for the invitation to attend the annual meeting; and thanks to the CAS for giving me the opportunity to do so.

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