Powering Forward: The SOA’s Greater Asia Committee

Actuarial education and outreach continue in Asia Paul Setio Kartono, Sean Hsiang Kau, Masu Ma

It was certainly a stressful start to 2022 with the Omicron COVID-19 variant outbreak. Still, it didn’t keep the Society of Actuaries’ Greater Asia Committee (GAC) from serving and connecting with its members, candidates and the wider actuarial community throughout the year.

While most of our activities and professional development were virtual in 2022, December’s Asia-Pacific Actuarial Teaching Conference was solely in-person in Bangkok. At that time, GAC members were able to meet as well. We are excited that more and more events will be in-person moving forward in 2023.

The GAC has representatives in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam—all supported by the SOA Asia team, led by the SOA’s Asia-Pacific Lead, Dr. Wai Ling Yung and assisted by Lucy Lee. From year to year, GAC activities and outreach have increased tremendously to serve members’ various needs. The flagship Symposium was held virtually in June and ImpACT Asia in November. There were also nine webinars on a variety of topics, six articles published by The Actuary digital magazine focusing on Asia, and multiple seminars (virtual and in-person) held with local actuarial societies, namely ASM Malaysia, ASP Philippines, PAI Indonesia, AICT Taiwan and SOAT Thailand.

GAC also conducted member and candidate gatherings in the represented countries and held its annual Young Actuaries contest. From an outreach standpoint, the SOA presented at local events, career fairs and universities, and conducted employer counseling to understand professional development needs better.

The following is an overview of GAC activities by category:


Nine webinars were conducted in 2022:

  1. Reinsurance Trends & Outlook on Product Development, Feb. 15
    Focused on how reinsurers’ experience and multicountry presence position them to be on top of insurance trends so they can design customer-specific products while minimizing risk exposures of direct insurers.
  2. Latest development in health technology and implications for critical illness insurance products, March 25
    Critical illness products have rapidly gained popularity in Asia, and product design has evolved. It went from simple late-stage critical illness products in the 1990s to complex, staged critical illness products in the 21st century. This evolution is also matched through medical technological advancement, positively impacting life expectancy through earlier diagnosis. However, this could negatively impact the insurance industry by distributing claims more weighted toward earlier claims and survival through multiple claims. The webcast aimed to provide the audience with a better understanding of the following topics and the potential implications of insurance product design and pricing:

    • Fundamental questions relating to liquid biopsy and its potential implications
    • Impact of health technology on cancer incidence and cancer as an emerging risk evidenced by the latest HK experience
  3. IFRS 17 Planning/Forecasting and Strategies, April 29
    As the new accounting standard IFRS 17’s effective time approached, insurance companies adopting IFRS 17 needed to prepare for the next steps. As multiple factors influence companies, it was preferred to set appropriate strategies for implementing IFRS 17 in January 2022. The webcast aimed to provide the audience with a better understanding of the following topics:

    • Background of IFRS 17, the implication of different strategies, and case study with technical highlights and difficulties
    • Considerations, challenges, and potential solutions for planning and projection under IFRS 17
  4. The Explorers—Stories of Actuary Entrepreneurs, June 23
    Once qualified, some actuaries have chosen nontraditional careers. They have started business ventures and become Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) and insurance trainers with a half-million subscribers. Some developed a professional consultant team and were awarded Top Actuarial Firm in Asia or established a brokerage firm in a new insurance market with high growth despite the global pandemic. The webcast allowed the participants to hear personal stories behind these entrepreneurial endeavors and discover why and how they were successful.
  5. Climate Risk Management—What Actuaries and Risk Managers Need to Know, July 29
    Climate risk has been one of the key focuses of the industry when it comes to risk management and stress-testing from the perspectives of various parts of the industry, including regulators, insurance companies, and, at times, consumers. The management and evaluation of climate risk are often seen as “high level,” given that current regulatory frameworks tend to be rule-based and allow room for judgment over the approaches adopted. Presenters shared insights on practical approaches to climate risk management, regulatory developments and the lessons learned from the banking industry. The session comprised two parts:

    • Adopting a Typical Risk Management Approach for Climate Change and a Banking Case Study
    • Climate Risk Regulatory Development Around the World and What Insurers are Doing in Asia
  6. Actuaries in Asia: An Insight for Actuaries to Work in Different Asia Regions, Aug. 30

    Together with the growing insurance/finance market, the actuarial profession in Asia has increased significantly over the past few years. This development provides opportunities for actuaries to expand their careers in regions across Asia. This session highlighted the experiences of actuaries who have worked in multiple regions in Asia. By sharing topics, including (but not limited to) actuarial environment, cultures and challenges faced in these regions, speakers gave attendees insights on multiregion experiences, offering them a view of the next destination on their professional journey.

  7. Decentralized Finance—Emerging Risks and Opportunities, Sept. 20
    Decentralized finance, or DeFi, is an emerging financial system powered by blockchain technology. Decentralized insurance alternatives are a rapidly expanding sector of DeFi and are regarded as integral to the further growth of the DeFi ecosystem. The session introduced DeFi and decentralized insurance alternatives by discussing key characteristics, market landscape, key players, opportunities, challenges of DeFi, and decentralized insurance alternatives, as well as about DeFi risks and possible risk classification framework.
  8. Managing Climate Risks, Oct. 21
    Environment risks, such as extreme weather events, climate change and natural disasters, have consistently appeared as identified top risks in many industries. This webinar explored approaches to managing climate risks based on current trends and offered approaches to integrating and managing climate uncertainties.
  9. SOA Asia Monthly Webcast—Complimentary, started Nov. 21
    • The first session of this complimentary webcast discussed reinsurance as an alternative funding source in a rising-rates environment. Rising interest rates, cost of debt, and equity make a review of the funding strategy of insurance companies necessary. In addition, reinsurance can often lower after-tax capital costs and further diversify the funding mix by providing an additional funding source. Practical case studies were included to identify situations where reinsurance could benefit an organization.
    • The next session highlighted reflections on the new world post-COVID-19 and Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP). As we all return to normal at various paces worldwide from COVID-19, what did we learn from this unprecedented lockdown and global pandemic? COVID-19 was something we hadn’t experienced before and called into question the downstream effects on mortality and life expectancy. Are there medium-term impacts for mortality and morbidity that would have developed into opportunities and threats to insurance and customers?
    • Looking at the other key input for insurance—interest rates—we saw the rates rebound mildly in 2018 away from ZIRP, and the rates plummet to new lows in 2020 with real threats of NIRP (Negative Interest Rate Policy) beyond Europe. We would have expected it to potentially take as much time for rates to go back up as they did to go down, but the geopolitical twist in 2022 and further COVID-19 disruption have driven up inflation and forced the hands of the central bankers. How would we react as we approach more market-consistent valuation in IFRS 17 in Financial Reporting in 2023 and regulatory modernization across various markets? This was the focus of the final session of this webcast.

As we can see, the webcasts of 2022 covered a wide range of topics. They attempted to suit diversified interests and backgrounds, provide audiences with opportunities to enhance professional knowledge and catch up with the latest industry trends while meeting the requirements of continuing professional development of the SOA. GAC sincerely thanks the presenters, panelists, moderators, and organizers for volunteering their time and professional knowledge—all valuable contributions that made these events possible and successful.

For 2023, GAC looks forward to serving its members and affiliates by providing exciting and interesting webcasts and addressing the needs of the ever-evolving actuarial profession. Potential topics include insurtech, cyber risk, longevity risk, long-term impairment of COVID-19 patients, application of new technology (big data, AI, etc.), and IFRS 17-related issues. We also welcome suggestions and comments from the audiences and participants regarding topics of interest; valuable input is essential to GAC’s continued effort to improve services.

The Actuary digital magazine articles

The Actuary Asia contributors focused on sharing Asia market industry trends and interviewing contributors to SOA activities. Indonesian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese market leaders were interviewed and featured. With IFRS 17 being one of the biggest drivers of industry change in Asia, the organizer of the IFRS 17 eLearning program, which SOA initiated, was interviewed. Also interviewed was the organizer of the SOA young actuaries board game design. All articles can be accessed via the search function at The Actuary magazine.

What’s Next?

After looking back at 2022, an important question always remains: “What’s next?” A Forbes article discussed what will determine insurance industry trends in 2023. “A new world of emerging and evolving risks,” “Technology ecosystems become a reality,” and “Humanizing the insurance customer experience” were highlighted.

Future insurance trends are expected to surround insurtech, risk management and ESG. But there is always the question, “How will it impact actuaries?” As Steve Jobs said, “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology … married with the humanities, [that] makes our hearts sing.” So how do actuaries “sing” with these changes?

In 2023 we will continue interviewing leaders who can share insights on Asia markets and feature additional Asia markets for The Actuary’s readers, as well as interview experts in insurtech, ESG and other areas.

Paul Setio Kartono, CFA, FSAI, ASA, MAAA, is chair of the Society of Actuaries Greater Asia Committee, vice president of the Society of Actuaries of Indonesia, and CFO of Prudential Syariah in Indonesia.
Sean Hsiang Kau, FSA, MAAA, is a member of the Society of Actuaries Greater Asia Committee and chief risk officer and appointed actuary at Hanwha Life Vietnam.
Masu Ma is the chair of the SOA Asia Editorial Sub-Committee.

Statements of fact and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Society of Actuaries or the respective authors’ employers.

Copyright © 2023 by the Society of Actuaries, Chicago, Illinois.