Introduction to the Actuarial Profession | Education & Examination | Research | Employment | Glossary | FAQs

 
What is an actuary?
Actuaries have been called financial engineers and social mathematician who apply mathematical models to problems of insurance and finance.  They improve financial decision making by developing models to evaluate the current financial implications of uncertain future events...more
Where do actuaries work and what do they do?

Traditionally, actuaries have worked in the insurance and pensions industries, but increasingly they are playing a valuable role in areas such as healthcare, banking, risk management, investment and education.  Actuaries also help government to supervise financial services industry.

The following is a list of typical actuarial works:

• Design, price and value insurance products
• Estimate reserves to be held for future claims in insurance plans and pension schemes
• Forecast and quantify insurance risks e.g. mortality, catastrophes and claim rates
• Participate in corporate planning, such as mergers and acquisitions
• Analyze investment programs

...more

What are the differences amongst actuaries, accountants and financial planners?

The three professions provide financial advice to clients.  However, they serve rather different types of client.  Financial planners assist individuals by creating a personal financial plan in accordance with the individuals’ financial goals and ability.  On the other hand, actuaries particularly work for corporate clients, providing advice on a range of issues from risk assessment, product pricing and development, reserving, asset-liability management, mergers and acquisitions to employee benefits schemes.  Actuaries help companies to assess risks by constructing models to evaluate the financial implications of uncertain future events “before” business decision is made.  Accountants, on the other hand, report on the financial well-being of a business, including preparation of balanced accounts and financial statements and ensure that financial resources are properly deployed “after” the adoption of business/investment plans.  

What qualifications do I need to become an actuary?

You need advanced mathematical skills* and preferably have a university degree qualification which could be in any discipline. To qualify as an actuary, you should possess several of the following skills and talents:

• Strong mathematical skills 
• Calculus, statistics, probability
• Self-motivation, determination and commitment
• Keen analytical and project management skills
• Ability to solve problems
• Solid communication skills (oral and written)
• Good business sense 
• Finance, accounting, economics
• Strong computer skills
• Word processing programs, spreadsheets, statistical analysis programs, database manipulation, programming languages

* Note: The minimum entrance requirements for admittance as a student of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK) are Mathematics A level at grade B, along with a second A level or equivalent in any subject at grade C, English GCSE at grade C, and two other GCSEs in any subject at grade C (or equivalent).

Why is a career as an actuary so appealing?

An actuarial career can offer you considerable rewards in terms of intellectual challenge, professional status, job satisfaction and high earnings:

• Career without boundaries

Because of their specialist training and unique skills, actuaries can work in many financial sectors from insurance, pensions and benefits, investment and asset management, to banking, healthcare and the management of capital projects.  Globalization is affecting the financial economy so demand for actuaries to solve business problems is high throughout the world.  There are opportunities for actuaries to work abroad.

• Influential role

A significant percentage of actuaries are key players in the management team of the companies that employ them.  Actuaries are behind many high level strategic decisions made by financial service companies and governments.

• Professionalism

It is an ethical profession with the highest standards of behavior, integrity, competence and professional judgment.  Actuaries balance their role in business management with a responsibility to safeguarding the financial interests of the public.

• Attractive remuneration

Actuaries are well rewarded in terms of financial incentives.  In Hong Kong, actuarial students are likely to start on around HK$12,000 to HK$15,000 per month with newly qualified actuaries earning in excess of HK$40,000 per month and senior actuaries in excess of HK$100,000 per month.

How do I become an actuary?

Actuaries enter the profession by passing a series of professional examinations.  Currently, the ASHK does not organize its own examinations.  Actuaries in Hong Kong take professional examinations with one of the following overseas examining organizations:

Casualty Actuarial Society (US)
Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK)
Actuaries Institute Australia
Society of Actuaries (US)

Syllabus differs slightly among the above actuarial bodies.  For example, examinations of the Casualty Actuaries Society focus on general insurance while the other three examining bodies cover subjects in life insurance, pensions, healthcare, investment and finance (general insurance is also included in the Australian and UK’s exams).  Regarding the examinations format, essay questions are widely adopted in the Australian and UK’s systems.  On the other hand, the two US examinations are mostly in multiple-choice and short essay format.  Since the qualifications obtained through the above bodies are recognized worldwide, it is up to you to consider which body you wish to study through.

Are there any differences in the level of difficulty of the examinations offered by the different examining bodies? What actuarial qualifications are recognized by employers in Hong Kong?

To uphold the highest standards of the actuarial profession, all the professional examinations are equally difficult.  In Hong Kong, recognized actuarial qualifications include qualifications obtained from:

Casualty Actuarial Society (US)
Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK)
Actuaries Institute Australia
Society of Actuaries (US)

Hong Kong's universities offering actuarial programs tend to adopt the US actuarial examination system so the local graduates in general attain actuarial qualifications from either Casualty Actuarial Society or Society of Actuaries.

Actuaries possessing appropriate professional knowledge and practical experience and qualifying from other than the above actuarial associations can also practise in Hong Kong and be recognized by the ASHK.

How do I start taking the actuarial examinations? How many examinations do I need to take?

Once you have reviewed the syllabus and examination schedule, you can send your examination application form directly to the chosen actuarial association.  For the Australian or UK's examinations, you should enroll as a student member of the association before you apply to take their examinations. The ASHK does not handle examination applications.

Please refer to our brochure (English or Chinese) for information on examination system of various actuarial associations.

Due to extensive coverage of syllabus content in each examination paper, actuarial students normally sit for 1-2 examinations per exam diet.  The examinations can usually be taken in any order, though most people choose to start from the earlier examinations.

How often do the actuarial examinations take place? Is Hong Kong an examination centre?

The examinations are offered twice a year (in April - May and October - November).  Hong Kong is an examination centre of the following overseas actuarial bodies, namely, Casualty Actuarial Society (US), Faculty and Institute of Actuaries (UK), Actuaries Institute Australia, Society of Actuaries (US) and Society of Actuaries of China* (P.R. China).

* Note: The Chinese actuarial examinations are held once a year in Hong Kong (in September).

How much are the actuarial examination fees?

Examination fees vary for different subjects and different associations.  Below are direct links to examination information of various actuarial associations for your information:

Casualty Actuarial Society (US)
Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK)
Actuaries Institute Australia
Society of Actuaries (US)
How long does it take to become a Fellow, ie, a fully qualified actuary?

In order to become a Fellow of the particular association, you must pass all required examinations and satisfy the associations' (if any) practical experience requirement or other additional criteria.  Average qualification time is four to seven years.

What resources are available to help those preparing for the actuarial examinations? Are there any organizations that offer examination study guides or review seminars?

Candidates can refer to past examination papers which can usually be downloaded from the particular actuarial association's website.

Actuarial students may prepare for the examinations by means of review seminar (overseas) or study groups.  None of the review seminars are sponsored or endorsed by the particular actuarial associations or the ASHK.  It is not necessary to take any of these courses, but some actuarial students choose to take advantage of them.

Further information on past examination papers and review seminars can be found in the Useful Links page.

Where can I purchase actuarial textbooks and calculator?

Only a very limited number of actuarial textbooks may be purchased locally through a bookstore in Hong Kong. List of bookstores (mainly overseas) and calculator supplier can be found in the Useful Links page.

What degree subjects are appropriate to an actuarial career? Are actuarial jobs limited solely to individuals with an actuarial science/math/statistics degree?

Actuarial science, math, statistics, economics, business and finance degrees provide excellent grounding for an actuarial career.  Several local and overseas universities offer undergraduate or postgraduate programs in actuarial science.  You can find a list of these courses in the Useful Links page.  The advantages of studying for the actuarial programs are:

An opportunity to find out more about actuarial work before starting employment.
If a sufficiently high grade is achieved in the appropriate university examinations, you may apply for exemptions from the corresponding professional examinations (not applicable to US examining bodies).

However, we do have some actuaries coming from a variety of educational backgrounds.  Actuaries may have majors in areas other than math, such as operations research, physics, engineering, and even fine arts.  You do not need to major in math or statistics in order to be an actuary.  It is the ability to pass actuarial examinations that determines if you are eligible to enter the profession.  If you are able to pass the examinations, you will indicate to potential employers that you have the aptitude, interest, and commitment to be an actuary, regardless of your major.

What exemptions from the actuarial examinations will I obtain?
Exemptions are reviewed on an individual  basis as the multiplicity of, and frequent changes in, university and other  courses, as well as the wide choice of subjects often allowed, makes it  impractical to give any comprehensive and detailed list of possible exemptions.  They will depend in each case on the scope and standard of the subjects covered  by the particular examinations and on the achievement of a satisfactory level of  performance by the applicant.  A graduate  from an actuarial/math/statistics program may be granted exemptions from the  preliminary actuarial examinations' subjects.  It is impossible to gain exemptions from all required examinations on the undergraduate and postgraduate programs. 
Where can I look for actuarial job placements?

Unlike other business vacancies, actuarial job openings especially entry-level positions are hardly posted in local Classified Posts. Upon completion of the first 3-4 actuarial examinations, you can find actuarial jobs by the following means:

• Self recommendation

List of actuarial employers in Hong Kong can be downloaded from the Employment section.  You can use the list as an information source, approaching companies by sending your CV with an application letter.  A well-drafted letter extolling the many skills and assets you could bring to a company can sometimes create a valuable opportunity.

• University careers services

Universities offering actuarial programs often assist their students by advertising part-time/summer positions, sending employers resumes of interested students, and arranging interviews for the students selected by the employers.  Internship experience has proved to be a valuable opportunity for students to gain insight into the workings of being an actuary.  It also demonstrates initiative, drive and determination, providing evidence of the students' ability to relate their studies to the real business world.  Actuarial employers also regard internship as an effective way of screening potential employees.  You can contact career/placement centre of your university for advice.  The contacts of local universities' business school/career/placement centre are shown as below:

•  The University of Hong Kong 
   Ms. Louisa Li
   Director
   Careers Education & Placement Centre
   Tel: (852) 2241 5231 
   Fax: (852) 2559 5238 
   Email: louisali@hku.hk 

•  The Chinese University of Hong Kong 
   Ms. Ruby Ching
   Projector Coordinator 
   Department of Finance
   Tel: (852) 2609 7849 
   Fax: (852) 2603 6586
   Email: ruby@cuhk.edu.hk        

•  The Hong Kong Polytechnic University of Hong Kong 
   Mr. Jack Kwan
   Counseling Specialist (Personal & Career Development)
   Student Affairs Office
   Tel: (852) 2766 6803   
   Fax: (852) 2774 5226
   Email: sajack@inet.polyu.edu.hk 

• City University of Hong Kong
   Ms. Caroline Chow
   Internship Coordinator
   Faculty of Business
   Tel: (852) 3442 6601   
   Fax: (852) 2788 7182       
   Email: caroline.chow@cityu.edu.hk

•  Hong Kong Baptist University 
   Ms. Rosa Tang
   Senior Career Service Officer
   Placement Centre
   Tel: (852) 3411 7437 
   Fax: (852) 2336 1762
   Email: rosatang@hkbu.edu.hk

•  Lingnan University 
   Business Programmes Office
   General enquiry: 
   Tel: (852) 2616 8101
   Fax: (852) 2585 5185
   Email: busprog@ln.edu.hk        

• Actuarial recruitment firms
Actuarial recruiters are constantly seeking out companies which offer actuarial jobs.  Some actuarial recruitment firms are listed below for reference:

  • D.W. Simpson & Company
  • Darwin Rhodes
  • GAAPS Actuarial
  • QED Actuarial

• ASHK's Actuarial Job Circulation

ASHK members are eligible to access actuarial job postings from local and international actuarial employers through members' area.

How do companies support employees who are taking the actuarial examinations?

Most insurance companies and consulting firms that employ actuaries have established programs to pay for the exam fees for their employees and to provide study leave for their employees to prepare for exams.  Often, salary increases are tied to exam progress.

Will I need to continue training once I have qualified?

Fellows practising in Hong Kong should ensure that they keep themselves up to date with developments and legislation in the Hong Kong market that might affect their ability to perform as actuaries.  The ASHK recognizes that its Fellow members may already be required and/or advised by their original qualifying body* to undertake continuing professional development (CPD).  ASHK Fellows will be deemed to have fulfilled the ASHK's CPD requirements if they have fulfilled their original qualifying body's CPD requirements and a reasonable proportion of the CPD undertaken relates directly to the Hong Kong market.

If a Fellow of the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong is not a member of any of the original qualifying bodies* or if any of the original qualifying bodies* do not operate a CPD scheme and/or do not require/advise members to undertake CPD then a Fellow of the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong should be aware of the need to continually develop himself professionally.  It is the responsibility of each Fellow to satisfy himself that he is developing himself sufficiently to ensure that he is still competent to practice as an actuary.

* Note: Original qualifying bodies are as defined in the ASHK's  Handbook and Memorandum and Articles of Association i.e. Casualty Actuarial Society (United States of America), Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (UK), Actuaries Institute Australia, and Society of Actuaries (United States of America).

What are the career path and salary of an actuary?
Below are general indications of salary range and career advancement of an actuary. 

Level Years of experience Estimated Salary Range* (HK$/month)

Actuarial Trainee/
Actuarial Assistant

0-1

$12,000 - $15,000

Actuarial Analyst

2-6

$15,000 - $40,000

Actuarial Manager

7-10

$40,000 - $60,000

Corporate Actuary/
Life Insurance Actuary/
Pension Actuary/
Asset/Investment Consultant
Chief Risk Officer/
Chief Actuary/
Chief Financial Officer/ Management Consultant

10 and above

$60,000 - $100,000+

* Data represent a rough estimate.

What recommendations would you give to mature entrants?
There is no age limit for joining the actuarial profession, but securing employment and sponsorship for the professional examinations may prove difficult for mature entrants.  You are recommended to take 1-2 actuarial exams as soon as possible.  If you are able to pass the examinations, you will indicate to potential employers that you have the aptitude, interest and commitment to be an actuary.
Other relevant websites
http://www.actuaries.org.uk/careers
http://www.be-an-actuary.co.uk
http://www.beanactuary.com
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