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‘SOA paves the way for Pakistani actuaries to play a leading role in the nation’s economic growth’

Zain Ibrahim, ASA, ACIA, leads strategic initiatives to advance the actuarial profession as the Regional Director of the Society of Actuaries across Middle East, Africa, South Asia. I an interview with BR Research, he highlighted the increasing demand for actuaries in Pakistan, emphasizing the valuable career prospects for students in this field and the opportunities offered by the SOA. Following is the edited excerpt from our conversation with him:

BR Research: What is the role of actuaries in the insurance industry and what are the challenges faced by actuaries in Pakistan?

Zain Ibrahim: Actuaries stand at the forefront of the financial industry, empowering businesses and organizations to navigate economic risks and challenges through strategic insurance solutions. Their data analysis and predictive modeling expertise are pivotal in today’s ever-evolving risk landscapes.

While the demand for credentialed actuaries is growing in Pakistan and globally, Pakistani students face two unique challenges: first, a need for more awareness about the profession and, second, cost barriers to education. The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is proactively addressing these challenges. Establishing the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan (MAP) Committee and the regional Dubai office signals its commitment. We also collaborate with Pakistani universities, regulators (evidenced by the sponsorship of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan seminar in 2023), and the local actuarial body to raise awareness.

Through our Global Access Pilot Program, we tackle affordability head-on, providing Pakistani students with substantial exam fee discounts. These initiatives underscore a commitment to empowering the next generation of Pakistani actuaries and accelerating the profession’s growth from within the nation.

BRR: What are the opportunities for Pakistani students in the actuarial field, and how is the SOA facilitating them through - resources, scholarships, internships, and career paths?

ZI: Pakistan’s insurance industry is experiencing significant growth, creating a surge in demand for skilled actuaries. During this critical time, the SOA has dedicated itself to empowering students by providing online resources and career guides showcasing the diverse and exciting career paths available in actuarial fields. These include specializations in life insurance, general insurance, pensions, and more.

As mentioned above, the SOA also understands the financial challenges faced by some students. To make actuarial qualifications more attainable for a broader range of talented individuals, we offer the Global Access Pilot Program, specifically designed to reduce exam fees for Pakistani students pursuing the Associate in Society of Actuaries (ASA) designation. We also facilitate networking through regional conferences and events, allowing students to connect with established actuaries, gain valuable insights into the profession, and explore career options.

BRR: What is the impact of technological advancements on the actuarial profession and how Pakistani actuaries can stay ahead of the curve?

ZI: The actuarial profession is undergoing a significant transformation due to rapid technological advancements. This presents both challenges and exciting opportunities for Pakistani actuaries. The data explosion has enabled actuaries to conduct more sophisticated risk modeling and develop innovative insurance products. By leveraging machine learning and AI, actuaries can make more accurate predictions about future risks, leading to better pricing models and risk management strategies. Additionally, automation will free up actuaries to focus on strategic and business leadership roles.

Pakistani actuaries can stay ahead of the curve by continuously learning and participating in the SOA-offered online workshops and resources on data science, AI, and predictive analytics. Being open to learning new software and data analysis tools is beneficial. For instance, building a solid foundation in data science and programming languages like Python. The SOA offers networking and professional development opportunities through both regional and virtual events, and conferences, which provide valuable prospects for learning from peers, staying updated on industry trends, and connecting and sharing knowledge.

BRR: How is the SOA promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the actuarial profession? How does this inclusive approach impact Pakistani students and actuaries?

ZI: We have always worked to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession. Over the past 10 years, we’ve witnessed an increase of nearly double the number of candidates pursuing the ASA credential. Especially witnessing a positive trend in the growth of female candidates, who have risen to 437 percent in the last ten years. Although there is more room to grow, this surge in female participation is indicative of a broader shift towards inclusion in the profession.

Our network of actuaries fosters connections between aspiring actuaries and experienced professionals from various backgrounds. Our free Affiliate Membership program provides Pakistani students with valuable guidance, role models and mentorship opportunities, thus promoting a more inclusive professional network.

By encouraging inclusivity, the SOA opens doors for Pakistani actuaries to take on leadership roles and contribute their expertise at an international level and inspire future generations of Pakistani students.

BRR: What are the Society of Actuaries’ (SOA) plans for expansion and development in Pakistan? Can you share any success stories of SOA initiatives in Pakistan, and how they’ve positively impacted the actuarial community?

ZI: The SOA is dedicated to nurturing a robust actuarial community in Pakistan. The MAP Committee—which involves a team of member volunteers who collaborate with regional staff on initiatives tailored explicitly to the Pakistani context—ensures targeted outreach and programs that resonate with the local actuarial community. We also actively engage with universities, regulators, the local actuarial professional body, and students.

At present, nearly 90 Pakistani actuaries hold SOA credentials. This growing pool of qualified professionals strengthens the actuarial community in the country. Our Affiliate Membership program has attracted nearly 400 Pakistani students, introducing them to the actuarial profession at an early stage and inspiring them to pursue this rewarding career path.

These early successes illustrate the positive impact of the SOA’s efforts in Pakistan and our continued efforts to foster awareness, offer targeted support, and promote inclusivity. The SOA aims to pave the way for a future where Pakistani actuaries play a leading role in the nation’s economic growth and financial stability.

BRR: What is the future of the actuarial profession in Pakistan, including the trends, predictions, and advice for aspiring actuaries?

ZI: With growing global and economic uncertainties, the demand for risk management expertise will be crucial. Actuaries, with their unique skills, will play a vital role in mitigating financial risks across various sectors.

Our advice to aspiring actuaries is to pursue a degree in mathematics, statistics, or finance. Embrace data science, programming languages like Python, and data analysis tools. The SOA offers resources and workshops to help them along their journeys. The future is bright for young aspiring actuaries, and we encourage them to seize the opportunities available to them!

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