I went to Singapore with an entrepreneurial spirit. I was looking to work in Asia, to create a business, grow people, and build on something that I'd done previously in an established organization. Milliman gave me the opportunity to do something new.
There are a lot of things that need to be done in Asia for its aging population. These are countries that have a relatively young workforce, but they are underprovided for in terms of long-term financial security. There is an opportunity to give something back. Using the technology and the techniques to learn from some of the mistakes that have been made in the past in other jurisdictions, we can take that advantage into this market.
Milliman can introduce new ideas, while some of our competitors might be hesitant to do something different because it upsets their existing relationships. In the space of just under three years, we've got 30 clients in India, a dozen clients in Thailand, 150 clients in Indonesia. And these clients expect us to be pioneering and to introduce new concepts. They could have hired our competitors. But they wanted something different.
We're in the interesting position of being in on the ground floor with the headquarters of multinationals in Asia, looking to see whether we can engineer opportunities for our colleagues in North America or in Europe. It’s a reversal of roles. Now I don't have to try too hard to get an appointment to talk to my counterpart in Dallas, for example, because that person wants to talk to me about what I can offer.
The biggest change I’ve seen in the benefits landscape is the fact that I'm now really working with the locals, and the change is encouraging. When I started my career in Hong Kong 25 years ago, most of my points of contact were other expats. I could have been in London, for all intents and purposes. The shift toward more local employees and colleagues means that the education and the processes are now inculcated into the local community, and I think that's evidence that we haven’t just taken the dollars and the fees, but we've actually put something back, and consequently local people are able to benefit. Similarly, when I first arrived in Hong Kong, I would guess 25% of the office was expatriate—now it's 10%. We have more local employees in our office and some of those employees are senior. The manager of our Jakarta business is Indonesian, and that's as it should be.
The Hong Kong actuarial business was 40 years in the making. And the Middle East market may require another 40 years. In the meantime, we’re working on it.
My advice to new graduates just coming to work at Milliman is: "Your number one priority is to pass exams. You have to be absolutely selfish about it.” And my number one priority is to get you billable. But I will never criticize you for demanding your day off to go and do your study, write your exam, because I was there. And, in fact, the sooner you qualify, the more valuable you will be to me.
I think the question that the actuarial profession and Milliman should be asking is, “What is going to be the right thing for the next generation?” The move from defined benefit to defined contribution is one example of this kind of thinking. I feel I have an opportunity at Milliman to ask that question. I think it's really, really important.