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Introducing SKL Asia and Cynthia Shen

Happy New Year! 2022 was an exciting year for SKL – we expanded SKL Actuarial and set up SKL Technology to better serve our clients. SKL Asia is based in Singapore, covering the Singapore, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asian markets. Qualified Actuary Cynthia Shen leads SKL Asia and some of you might have already met her last year. Cynthia’s background raised interest while she was networking across Asia, and so to properly introduce her here are some questions she often gets asked since joining SKL.

  1. You are an Actuary and now a Head-hunter?
  • A bit of my background is that I am from Taiwan and speak fluent Mandarin and English.
  • I finished school in New York and stayed on in the USA to start my actuarial career in 2004 working for a large life insurance company where I did a range of roles. I moved to work in Hong Kong at the end of 2010 and became a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries in 2011. In 2013 I moved to Singapore and have been there ever since.
  • During my 17 years in actuarial roles, I worked at top life insurance and reinsurance companies in a variety of diverse roles, with my recent company being MAPFRE RE.
  • I joined SKL Actuarial in Aug 2021 for this new, exciting opportunity as a head-hunter.
  1. Why did you leave work as an Actuary to become a Head-hunter for SKL?
  • I met Jas in 2017 at one of the actuarial conferences where I approached him to ask about some career advice as a candidate. I liked that Jas was an actuary and had an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the industry. This was a new kind of actuarial recruitment to Southeast Asia where actuaries help other actuaries in their job search, and so Jas and I discussed expanding this SKL model into Asia.
  • This role appealed to me as new and ambitious but exciting (and also a little scary!). Jas was enthusiastic and supportive, and along with the success of SKL in Australia it gave me lots of confidence that we could make this a success in the Asian market.
  • I like to learn new things and take on new challenges and having spent 17 years in actuarial roles I was ready to take on a new type of challenge. With my international as well as local experience as an actuary I felt I could really help candidates and clients find the match they were looking for and add value with my ‘insider’ knowledge of the industry. After covid I came to realise anything is possible in this uncertain world and I was being offered a great opportunity to try something new and add real value to people’s lives, and so I took it!
  1. What are the challenges as a Head-hunter from your perspective?
  • Recruitment is about people – to build relationships with people and gain trust from people and understand their needs. Unlike what I did before, the whole recruitment process is very dynamic, it is not about numbers or models. I needed to adjust my ways of thinking and adapt to the constant changes throughout the whole process.
  • Every placement is different and so you can’t overlook any detail or step. There is no so-called “simple placement” as each person and role has their unique requirements.
  • I still have some actuarial habits that aren’t always helpful, for example wanting to ‘complete’ tasks. But in reality, tasks and assignments can change significantly or even get dropped in the middle of it for many reasons, and I need to move on quickly and not dwell on it.
  • Having attended various workshops suggested by Jas and with the support of the Sydney team I have learnt a lot in my first year to help me transition to the world of recruitment. Although not always easy, it has been a good growth experience for me and I look forward to continuing to develop and improve in the role as I learn and experience more.
  1. All you guys do is coffee meetings all day?
  • That’s the stereotype and I used to think like that too. I’ve discovered there is a lot of hard work behind the coffee meetings!
  • Being new in the market I’ve had to network more to build up contacts and co-ordinate multiple calendars at once in order to even get to a coffee meeting or call. And then people’s schedules can change last minute.
  • Background work also involves having an overview of all the roles available in the market and keeping on top of ones being filled and new ones coming up, and in multiple countries at once.
  • There is the searching for the right candidates for a particular role and the right role for the candidate so that a suitable match can be found. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time by putting forward wrong candidates to clients and giving false hope to candidates, so getting a suitable short-list can take a lot more effort than it seems! I believe this is where my past actuarial knowledge and experience really comes in handy to understand the technicalities of a role and the candidate’s experience.
  • I think one needs to have supreme multi-tasking skills to be a good head-hunter!
  1. What is next?
  • With the easing of covid restrictions, I can now travel and attend more in-person meetings and conferences. SKL Singapore covers Singapore, Hong Kong, and the rest of Southeast Asia and the markets will be seeing us a lot in 2023.
  • Given SKL’s strong networks and experience in Australia, our focus is on providing professional services for clients and candidates to build up our presence in Asia with the added benefit of established international connections. The short-term goal is for both clients and candidates to associate actuarial search with SKL when they need help.
  • SKL is also one of the major sponsors of the International Actuarial Conference in 2023 and we look forward to seeing lot of you at this conference in Sydney.
  • I’m excited to get out there and meet new people as well as build on existing relationships and really help candidates and clients in a meaningful way.
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