Insurer Paternoster UK Ltd is aggressively ramping up its offshore operations in India in an effort to tap into the expertise of financial professionals here. The company which operates out of two centres in London and Mumbai is adding 20 employees to its 50-strong specialist team in Mumbai that was created in December 2006. The insurance firm manages over £400 million (Rs3,280 crore) and has 20% market share of the specialized insurance business in the UK.
Paternoster is attracting Indian finance professionals by offering to train them in specialist services such as defining life expectancy of customers and devising financial solutions through sophisticated derivative products; it also offers stock options to all its employees, irrespective of their work experience. At least 30% of its workforce in India is in the age group of 26-30.
The specialist insurer takes on to its books the risks associated with the final defined benefit pension schemes of companies and assumes responsibility for paying pensioners in the future. Mark Wood, chief executive of Paternoster, does not, however, call the India operations an offshoring activity. “India is core to our operations and with growing business we are using the expertise of our Indian team to devise solutions,” he says.
Building block: Mark Wood, chief executive of Paternoster, says India is core to their operations and not just an offshore activity.
“Any employee hired in India begins office not in India but in our headquarters in London and works closely with experts in the field for at least three to six months. With the local regulators showing a keen interest in introducing more and more derivative products in the Indian market, our employees will get a headstart,” Wood adds.
Besides being trained in London, the team in Mumbai also goes through an “actuarial school”, the first such set up by an insurance company that has operations in India. An actuary is a financial professional who predicts and assesses the financial impact of risk and uncertainty.
Actuaries were earlier employed only by insurance companies and pension funds but are increasingly being hired by investment banks and other financial institutions.
According to a recent paper authored by Richard Willets, one of the UK’s leading experts in mortality, “In the UK, where with more mature life and pensions industries the actuarial profession is long established, there is approximately one actuary for every 10,000 people. In other European countries the concentration is lower (roughly one per 34,000 in France and Germany, for instance). India, however, is at the other end of the scale with only one actuary for every 7.5 million people.” The UK has 6,000 qualified actuaries while India has only 150. The local insurance industry estimates that the country currently needs around 5,000 actuaries.