Topic: Recruiting for Insurance
Shafiq Samsudin - Director - Head of Insurance (Asia)
Occasionally one finds a recruitment specialist with a list of candidates and clients and also a deep working knowledge of their sector, in this case insurance. With levels of industry experience and job knowledge, which would allow them to attend the interview and get the target role for themselves.
This has advantages for the hiring company as it can be hard to find a specialist, who recognises the working skills and competences needed for the role and then provide the best selection of candidates for interview. Good news also for the candidate, to find a deep source of knowledge, whether they are a new candidate or experienced, as they can get a real sense of what it would be like to work for the target company and obtain the best advice on the questions that will arise in interview. All of this helps grow the reality for positive results for all concerned, with the best long term contract for the hiring company and the candidate.
Such is the case with Shafiq Samsudin, who joined FocusCore as Director, Head of Insurance (Asia) in Singapore. We spoke to him about the sector, his observations on the market today and his comments on the hot jobs in the insurance sector.
Q 1: Can you provide an outline of the Insurance market in Asia.
Let me first say, that for anyone not familiar with the Insurance sector, there are two main types of insurance: Life and General Insurance that is to say non-life (this type of insurance covers cars, buildings etc.)
Geographically, we focus both in Singapore, where one tends to find the regional hubs for General Insurance and also Hong Kong, where usually one sees regional hubs for Life Insurance. There are of course activities for both classes of insurance in both areas. For most reinsurers there is a tendency for them to be based in Singapore due to favourable tax conditions. I should add that English is the dominant language across these markets and of course candidates with Mandarin and other language skills will be valued by the hiring company.
We specialise on the Actuarial roles in life and non-life. Actuaries are statisticians and usually come from actuarial backgrounds and are strong in maths and economics to study future events based on historical data. So for life insurance it involves statistical, analytical research on nationality, race, diet, geography etc. There is a very strong correlation between the work for these specialists in life and non-life. There are also financial reporting duties within these roles, known as valuations in the life sector and in non-life they are known as reserving.
Our next specialisation is the underwriting sector and there is a wide range and remit here, such as casualty underwriting, treaty underwriting, and facultative underwriting. Then there is risk management, always a key area for many financial services firms and companies within the insurance sector. It is a big market, specifically enterprise risk management, which is a hot topic in Singapore and rolls out from the mature markets in USA, UK and Australia. This is closely related to the regulatory changes, be this on the actuarial side or across the entire insurance space.
Note, there are the rule makers, the regulators. For example in the UK there was the Financial Services Authority (FSA) although in 2013 its responsibilities were divided between two new agencies, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) who took over responsibility for the prudential regulation of insurance companies.
In China there is C-Ross and in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). There are a wide range of terms and regulations. One example is the rule set covering Solvency II, which involves governance, risk management and capital setting. Changes are also being rolled out across all markets covering the actuarial space and on risk based capital requirements, with a wide spread of terms and new regulations.
We also cover hires for catastrophe modelling. Let me give you example of this work. If a tornado hits this building that is insured for $100m - it is never going to happen – but for insurance the modellers help the insurer by providing a forecast of the potential risks, costs, for or following a catastrophic event. In this way the policy can be priced using the data found and calculated for that specific risk and insurance model for that structure.
Q 2: What are the hot jobs in Insurance for Singapore at the moment?
In the life actuarial sector, it is the health and critical illness sector at least in Singapore, which is an area seeing rapid growth. Life re-insurance is a growth area. Firms have recognised the demand in the market. In other regions there are also demands for traditional actuarial roles, e.g. for a qualified actuary in the pricing functions. There is always a demand from the leading insurers, re-insurers, brokers and consulting firms.
Q 3: Do staff usually get a pay rise when changing companies?
When candidates change jobs there is a wage increase. But note, if they are moving regions they should view the net figure and take in account local taxes and other considerations to see a true figure by comparison. As we mentioned earlier, regulatory changes have a knock-on effect on the sector. Here in Singapore there is a law relating to hiring for positions below a certain salary level. Companies must first search locally before hiring a candidate from overseas. This is for salaried roles up to S$12,000 but it should be said that we are seeing evidence of this pattern growing as a rule across all salary bands. There is already a high proportion, approaching 50%, of foreign workers who are now permanent residents in Singapore.
Q 4: What size of companies are hiring?
In Singapore there are of course the world’s insurance giants and also local companies, the market is not as large in London. Singapore is in the top 10 globally but it is difficult to compare as the demands are different in each area. The US, UK and Australia have the most mature markets in terms of market saturation. However, there is always demand for staff in underwriting, risk and tech modelling in our region.
Q 5: How easy is it for companies to find staff?
It is always a challenge finding qualified actuarial staff but they are usually highly mobile people. If for example one is currently based in Bermuda their skill set can be relevant here in Singapore. It is ideal if they have international experience and can speak an Asian language especially Mandarin.
Q 6: What if any changes exist in the market, perhaps due to regulations from overseas?
These changes are in fact market related, for example increased staffing due to continued growth of the economy as there is more demand for insurance. In China for example there is a huge line of business for motor insurance and this is growing fast. Very different growth parameters when compared to the UK where there is a more established market. So there are regional differences that we have been seen over the last 10 years across different lines of business, different target audiences, and different established markets.
Q 7: What is the trend in salaries?
For actuaries there is a broad gap and it depends on how quickly they qualified to become a fellow. For a recently qualified graduate the salary starts from S$ 3000 or S$ 3500 per month. When they pass more exams salaries start to rise. Once fully qualified and after 3 years experience you may find S$90,000 to S$100,000 per year. As they move up the ranks it is not uncommon to see a base salary of S$ 350,000 per year. So a wide range depending on many factors such as with which insurer or broker or reinsurer they have worked. Of course if the candidate has a regional role they will command a higher salary than if experience is purely local.
Q 8: Why should companies contact you?
I am well known as a specialist in the insurance sector with a proven track record placing senior actuaries within mutli-nationals and the wider insurance network and also placing them across Asia. Also of course other roles such as risk manages and catastrophe modellers. So people come to me due to the track record that I have across this market and region.
Q 9: Why should candidates contact you?
I can offer introductions due to my links within all the major insurers, reinsurers and consulting firms and not only the large firms. I also work with the medium and smaller players in the markets. It is the relationships and the rapport that I have developed over a long period of time with senior stakeholders in these firms, understanding what a business requires and also what type of candidate ‘fits’ – it is not just a functional element but also the personality fit, language, background and it takes time to understand what a business requires to find the right candidate for the right business.
Q 11: What do you do to protect client confidentiality?
Of course I have the industry recognised IT security and also a good rapport with client line managers. These are people with considerable experience in the industry and they respect the guidelines and of course especially if the candidate is currently with a competitive firm. I have not found this to be an issue.
Q 12: How long does it take for a candidate to find a new role?
From the time the candidate contacts us to the time a job offer is received; it can be two to three months. The markets are buoyant in Singapore and Hong Kong. My remit covers these areas, not China, but I do also cover parts of Asia.
Q 13: Do you have candidates from overseas, so it is wise for those in Singapore to get in contact with you now?
They are always welcome to get in touch as for certain jobs the skill sets do not exist here, so they could be very valuable. The door is always open. Of course a second language skill is important so someone who has international experience and with an Asian language would be of enormous benefit.
Q 14: How can people reach you?
LinkedIn is my preferred option - you can see my background and I can see the experience of the candidate. I have a LinkedIn business account so anyone can send me a message even if I am not a current connection. There is also my direct dial telephone +65 6631 2766 https://sg.linkedin.com/pub/shafiq-samsudin/24/613/4b5