How working in New Zealand can help fast track your career

Thinking about working overseas? Jas Singh and Jenny Lyon break down the reasons why you should consider New Zealand, and speak to three actuaries who are already there.

The benefits of working overseas are well documented. It can be a great way of developing new skills and meeting new colleagues. It can offer an alternative lifestyle and the opportunity to really understand a new culture and location. To achieve this from Australia usually means a long plane trip which reduces the chances of visiting home frequently. 

New Zealand is one of the closer options for Australians considering working overseas. It’s financial, insurance and legal systems are reasonably similar to Australia’s and, on the plus side, it also offers magnificent scenery. 

With a smaller financial services industry than Australia, one might wonder if a move to New Zealand could be a career limiting move. However, we would argue that it can offer some leverage opportunities if you do want to return to Australia or move elsewhere.

  • Organisations and branches are typically smaller in New Zealand and this means that actuaries often get to work across a wider range of issues and have greater access to senior management. This enables them to develop their commercial skills earlier in their career.
  • Without the number of actuarial university courses which exist in Australia, there are fewer entrants to the profession who are close to qualification on graduation and therefore a higher proportion of people who are studying the Part I equivalent subjects. Working as a recently qualified actuary you are more likely to have a team of people working for you than might be the case in Australia. This enables you to develop management skills at an earlier stage.
  • With a smaller pool of potential candidates, actuaries are found in many senior management roles in financial services companies in New Zealand.
  • If you are ambitious there is the opportunity to manage a business or the P&L of part of a business. This experience is vital to developing skills and demonstrating to employers elsewhere that you have the skills to take on roles at senior management level.

We spoke to three Australian actuaries currently working in New Zealand about their experience there.

Bartosz Piwcewicz

Bartosz joined Sovereign in August 2015 as the Chief Actuary. His experience had previously been in general insurance and most recently consulting so moving into a corporate life insurance environment was an unknown for him. However, in his words “I am not looking back”.

Bartosz was able to secure this role as he could demonstrate a high level of technical ability and had well-developed communication and influencing skills so that even though his experience was not directly applicable to the role, Sovereign saw that he could develop the knowledge he needed to operate in their market.

He noted that the role has provided him with a great opportunity to develop broad leadership and commercial skills and he contributes and has influence at  executive and board level.

Outside of work, Bartosz believes New Zealand is a great place for young families. With two kids aged three and five the family enjoys living in Auckland. He has been impressed by the outdoor lifestyle, availability of resources for families and the quality of childcare services and schools.

“I am not looking back” – Bartosz Piwcewicz

Len Elikhis

Len is the Chief Officer of Health Business at Sovereign, responsible for Sovereign’s health insurance division. 

Len joined Sovereign in 2014 as Head of Health Product and Strategy. His motivations for the move were to gain commercial experience which included running a P&L, distribution and marketing, business unit strategy, product development, and having engagement with the board. The role also provided him with the opportunity to further his develop leadership skills within the division and the enterprise as a whole.

Len commented on why considering a career in New Zealand might be worth exploring, particularly for an insurance actuary looking to gain broader commercial experience.

“Comparing major insurance companies in Australia and New Zealand, I would make the following general observations:

  • Roles in New Zealand tend to have broader responsibility and there is more opportunity to become involved in strategic company initiatives / projects. 
  • There is greater opportunity for engagement with senior management. 
  • There is a strong culture of collaboration and working towards a common outcome.
  • New Zealand companies seem to be more agile when responding to market trends.”

In addition, he has also found New Zealand  a wonderful place to live, especially for people who enjoy the outdoors. The weather is mild, the landscapes are breathtaking, the food is outstanding, and the people are friendly. Also, there are no snakes nor spiders. 

Adam Follington

Adam has lived in Auckland, New Zealand for 10 years after meeting his future (Kiwi) wife in London. He is currently heading up Quantium’s entry into the New Zealand market having recently left Deloitte, where he was a Partner in the actuarial team. He is a member of the Council of the New Zealand Society of Actuaries.

In his view some of the professional benefits of working in New Zealand include:

  • Roles tend to be less specialised and so there is an opportunity to broaden your experience.
  • Organisations tend to be smaller so there is a greater opportunity to “make a difference”.
  • Focus on achieving a healthy work/life balance.
  • the opportunity to work at a more senior level which can progress your career more rapidly.

He sees some of the social benefits of working in New Zealand as:

  • A great outdoor culture with access to beaches, lakes, mountains.
  • Smaller cities meaning there is less of the “rat race”  (if that’s what you prefer).
  • More rugby teams that win matches (but balanced by the cricket and league!).

He did note that “on the downside you have to endure a lot of jokes about Aussies bowling underarm balls”.

So in summary, while New Zealand may not have been top on your list for career development it is worth considering as an option for the future.

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