Finding Actuarial Opportunities in Microinsurance
-Written by Jeff Blacker, FSA, MAAA, author of Actuaries in Microinsurance
“One of the constraints inhibiting the expansion of better insurance services for more low-income households is sufficient technical expertise.”–Craig Churchill, Team Leader, ILO Impact Insurance Facility, and former Chair of the Microinsurance Network
Microinsurance (MI) is low cost insurance protection tailored to low-income people. MI gives you the opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives with your actuarial work. You meet people you would otherwise never meet and visit parts of the world you would otherwise never see. The number of opportunities in MI for actuaries has increased considerably in the last 5 years, but getting started can still be challenging. This post will give advice on how to get started.
Destination of Today’s Journey
After this post, you’ll be able to apply four suggestions for finding actuarial opportunities in the MI market.
Suggestion 1: Ask Yourself Some Questions
Why do you want to work in MI?
Is it a short-term or permanent move?
Is it right for your family? You may be asked to work in countries with substandard healthcare and crime. There have been opportunities that I did not apply for, because they were too far out of my family comfort zone with 2 small kids. I have applied for other opportunities, however, because they were in more family friendly locations, or because the work could be performed remotely.
Are you prepared for lower pay and benefits?
Do you need to add flexibility to your schedule? If you found an opportunity with MI next month, would your work and personal responsibilities allow you to go?
Suggestion 2: Improve Through Self-Education
Read information online
There is much more information online now than when I first heard about MI in 2007. Finding information relevant to actuaries takes time, because most articles are written for a broad audience. The Microinsurance Network (MIN) alone has over 500 high-quality articles. The MIN search tool helps you narrow your search by topic and region. The Actuaries in Microinsurance book offers a list of websites useful to actuaries interested in MI.
Improve your foreign language skills
It is not required that you speak a foreign language, but it does not hurt. If I did not speak Spanish, I never would have been offered some of my first MI opportunities in Panama, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
If you speak French, look for opportunities in Africa. I have seen opportunities in Asia where various foreign languages would have been useful.
Improve your public speaking skills
Most people have a fear of public speaking. Find an organization like Toastmasters that gives you opportunities to practice. You never know when someone will offer you an opportunity to speak at a conference. You want to be ready to say “yes”.
Back to school?
I admit that taking a course is not really “self-education”, but I am listing it here anyway. Consider an advanced degree other than actuarial science. I have seen many MI openings that require an advanced degree in either economics or international development.
One chapter in our book was written by an actuary who is completing a PhD at Georgia State. She was already an FSA working in Asia, but after careful research, she decided that a PhD was the best approach for her to enter the MI market.
I have seen shorter programs (e.g. 6-12 months) in either Microfinance or MI.
Suggestion 3: Gain Hands-On Experience
Volunteering gives you the chance to learn, network, and add relevant experience to your resume/CV.
Search for Fellowships, which are opportunities to work for 1-2 years overseas. You will be helping an organization in need of your actuarial skills, and you will be gaining experience in a new market. Most fellowships also provide a stipend to offset your living expenses.
Consider a traditional job focused on developing countries
For example, consider a large company like MetLife. They have locations in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa. Even if you work for them on traditional insurance products, rather than MI, at least you are steering your career towards countries where MI exists.
Join an insurer, reinsurer, or consulting company with MI departments
The number of traditional actuarial employers with MI departments is growing. A couple of examples are MunichRe and Swiss Re.
Suggestion 4: Networking
- Update your resume/CV, then apply for openings. If an opportunity is a good fit, this is a good way to learn about MI projects and the organizations involved.
- Network at conferences. My favorite MI conference for networking is the annual MunichRe Foundation conference, which changes locations each year.
- After you have gained relevant experience, write papers on MI or speak at MI conferences.
- Join online groups. Consider the Microinsurance Network’s “Actuaries and MI”. The IAA gives you access to Actuaries Without Borders and the Microinsurance Working Group
- LinkedIn has several good MI groups
You’ve reached your Destination
To recap: finding MI opportunities in MI takes effort. Apply these suggestions from myself and other actuaries in the MI market.
Suggestion 1) Ask yourself some questions.
Answering questions before you begin searching will help you know what type of opportunity fits you best.
Suggestion 2) Improve through self-education.
Spend time learning online. Invest in your foreign and public speaking skills.
Suggestion 3) Gain hands-on experience.
Volunteering or fellowships are a good place to start. Also consider an international role with large international employers that traditionally employ actuaries.
Suggestion 4) Networking
A good place to start is attending a conference and joining groups online. Once you gain relevant experience, look for chances to speak, write, and apply for MI openings.
Author’s bio: Jeff Blacker is an independent consulting actuary, actuarial exam instructor, and the principal editor for the new book Actuaries in Microinsurance which was published in October 2015. He worked 10 years in financial reporting and product development roles for a U.S. insurer prior to becoming a consultant in 2007. He has completed MI projects in Latin America, Africa, and India. As an actuarial exam instructor with The Infinite Actuary, he prepares students through online seminars for Society of Actuaries exams.
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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?