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Life insurance actuaries are in demand in Singapore, forcing firms to push up pay and scour the planet for talent.

Actuaries are hard to find because theirs is specialist mathematical function, and because they need to pass vigorous academic and professional exams, says Patrick Tan, principle consultant, Key International Search & Consulting.

"The growing affluence of this region, coupled with the increased sophistication of consumers, means insurance firms have to innovate their product offerings, so hence the increased demand for actuaries," says Tan.

Large firms such as AIA, Axa, Aviva, Great Eastern, NTUC Income, Manulife and Prudential generally only have two or three actuarial vacancies each at any one time in Singapore. However, this level of hiring remains fairly steady throughout the year and demand outstrips supply, says a headhunter who asked not to be named.

Christian Fischbach, managing consultant, Hays, says actuaries don't tend to change roles too often, which also helps to keep the job market tight.

So how are insurance firms filling their actuarial ranks in Singapore? "Sourcing can be done internationally because you're doing almost exactly the same role in Singapore as you were overseas. Local knowledge is not often required," says Fischbach.

Tan adds: "Firms will look to find actuaries in places like Hong Kong and London, but Malaysia is an important market too. It has a track record of producing really good people."

Actuaries' salaries are rising and compare favourably with middle-office roles in the banking sector. A VP in Singapore earns between S$180k and S$340k, while in Hong Kong the range is HK$960 to HK$1920, according to the 2011 Hays Salary Guide. That's more than the range in compliance or risk at a bank.