Career Path

Actuary: a rare bird

by Kitty Chu

Peter Luk
Pacific Century Insurance

There are only 200 qualified actuaries in Hong Kong. What do they do?

Mr. Peter Luk, the first person to qualify as an actuary in Hong Kong in 1972, is a Consultant and past Executive Director of Pacific Century Insurance, a Hong Kong listed company. Mr. Luk joined the insurance industry 40 years ago, after a short period as an investment adviser. He relates what happened.

First qualified actuary in Hong Kong

"I used to be an investment adviser with a U.S. securities firm in the late 60s. During my two-year period with them, the Dow Jones Industrial dropped from 1,000 points to 500 points. I decided that it would be difficult to pursue a career where one had to suffer this kind of trauma every few years, depending on the economic cycle." At the time, he was studying for an Institute of Actuaries Investment Certificate and it was a natural step for him to take further examinations to become a qualified actuary. He started his career as an actuary with AIA in 1970, while furthering his studies.

Developing profession

On April 13, 1992, a professional body of local actuaries was set up with Mr. Luk as its first president and was incorporated in 1994 as the Actuarial Society of Hong Kong. In 1993, the Society published its first Professional Standard setting the norm to be followed by all actuaries in Hong Kong.

"The job requires excellent communication skills for one to survive in a competitive market."

The actuarial profession has grown very fast over the past 20 years. There are at present approximately 200 fully qualified actuaries in Hong Kong with another 100 associates and 150 students working hard to become qualified.

The job involves calculating risk and profit margin for insurance companies that offer pension, insurance and investment products. Mr. Luk says that in the past, it was essential to be good in mathematics. As actuaries can now rely on sophisticated mathematics software to do most of the work, mathematics is becoming less important. But he emphasizes that the job requires excellent communication skills for one to survive in a competitive market.

Four fields to choose from

According to Mr. Luk, a qualified actuary can choose to develop his career either in life insurance, general insurance, investment or retirement scheme.

He also points out that the insurance industry has changed significantly. Having good market awareness is very important to an actuary. A lot of new insurance products and new investment vehicles have been developed over the past 20 years. A good actuary should pay close attention to market trends to have a good understanding of clients' needs and how best to serve them.

Contribute to your profession

"I hold every man a debtor to his profession..." by Francis Bacon (1596) is Mr Luk's motto. He says: "One should contribute to one's field of profession since one gains money and social status from his profession."

China Opportunities

There is a very strong demand for actuaries in China, since this is a fairly new field there. Mainland companies like to employ actuaries both from Hong Kong and Taiwan because of the common language and culture. Therefore, Mr. Luk believes that in the near future there should be tremendous opportunities for local actuaries in the China market.

Figures provided by
Centaline Julie's Personnel Consultants Limited

Taken from Career Times 19 April 2002, p. 28
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