International Committee practice update podcast

Through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Asia, the activities of the Actuaries Institute’s International Committee  haven’t slowed. In this podcast update, committee members Brendan Counsell and Andy Yang discuss the Asia strategy and implementation in the new virtual world.

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With the third largest group of Australian actuaries based in Hong Kong, and 12% of the Institute’s members spread across Asia, the International Committee’s Asia subcommittee, chaired by Andy, has developed a four-pronged strategy to improve its engagement in the region.

“One, is member engagement. The second, is a CPD offering. Three, is to improve the student returnee experience and retention. And the fourth, is operational improvement,” Andy explains.

With COVID-19 preventing people meeting in person, the sub-committee shifted to online forums to maintain member engagement. Active WhatsApp groups in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, and WeChat in China, ask questions, exchange information, welcome new members, advertise jobs, and promote events. Zoom meetings and webinars have taken the place of face to face meetings.

“Due to the pandemic, we’ve pivoted to virtual events and by doing so, we can reach out to a wider audience. For example, we have invited Malaysian University actuarial students who may not be aware of our Institute,” Andy says.

The sub-committee is also featuring more local speakers to improve its relevance for members based in Asia.

Plans to set up an Asian chapter of the Young Actuaries Program are also underway.

Efforts are being made to improve the user experience with Asian members, by providing a more seamless member service. Online exams will also begin in semester two, and members are being asked to keep their personal records and current location up-to-date to ensure resources are allocated properly.

COVID-19 has wrought significant and far-reaching changes to the insurance market. Many actuaries are concerned possible future low or negative interest rates will affect insurer’s guarantees, product design and capital, and the sub-committee will hold a Virtual Insights session on this very soon. Some premiums are going unpaid as customers cannot reach the insurer in person or electronically, and in some countries, regulators are requesting insurers lengthen the grace period given for customers to pay premiums.

“Actuaries need to be careful with the data available, understand the surrounding circumstances and try as far as possible, to distinguish temporary short-term trends from the true long-term trends,” Andy warns.

Policy lapses and surrenders are also rising. Medical claims are declining as surgeries are deferred. Insurers are seeing higher customer engagement with digital services, and are accelerating their collaboration with the emerging insurtech space as a result.

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