Foreign votes in ASI elections shocks many

Chennai: A concerted voting by around 45 foreign actuaries in favour of one set of contestants is all set to change the current composition of Actuarial Society of Indias (ASI) governing council.

The institutes recently concluded executive committee (EC) saw intense lobbying by foreign actuarial firms and actuaries preceding the event.

It is said that a former president of Institute of Actuaries, UK, too, canvassed actively in favour of one set of contestants. This is said to have influenced the foreign actuaries tilting the scales against the incumbents governing body. For instance, Heerak Basu, a UK national but a person of Indian origin, working with Watson Wyatt, Singapore, polled the highest number of votes (155) among the contestants.

ASIs electoral college, consisting of fellow and associate members, will elect EC, which in turn will choose the office-bearers.

But voting by foreign members in the professional institute elections is nothing new. "The UK actuarial institute allows non-British members to vote in its elections. But the non-British members will be a small percentage of the total electoral college and will not be able to make any impact," says ASI president Nalin R Kapadia.

Curiously, the elections bring back Liyaquat Khan with a bang at ASI polling 148 votes. "I have an unfinished agenda at ASI and will most probably contest for the presidents post this year," says Khan. On the other hand Kapadia, the incumbent president, has decided not to contest for re-election.

Last year around the same time ASIs EC had voted Khan out of the presidency along with vice-president P A Balasubramanian. Subsequently, both of them resigned their EC memberships. (The ASI president was voted out.) They were succeeded by Kapadia and P C Gupta as president and vice-president, respectively.

This time the numbers seems to be stacked in Khans favour with six of the new EC members sharing similar views on many issues concerning the profession and five against. Lobbying is actively on and anything can happen at the last moment. But what interested foreigners to participate actively in the elections of a small Indian professional body? Business interests, say actuaries.

For global actuarial companies like Watson Wyatt the stakes are high in India. The actuarial profession is slowly picking up. It is said that for every 10 chartered accountants, there is potential for one actuary. According to the Income Tax Act, gratuity valuations of companies are to be certified by a qualified actuary. Till date this rule was not followed. But nowadays, chartered accountants are insisting that gratuity, leave encashment and pension valuations of companies be done by actuaries. This throws up immense opportunities for actuaries.

Watson Wyatt has two private limited companies in India Watson Wyatt India and Watson Wyatt Insurance Consulting. While the former offers actuarial services and consultancy, the later consults on human resources and works out of three metros New Delhi, Mumbai and Kokatta. Curiously, Paul Thornton, former president of UK actuaries institute, is with Watson Wyatt, London.

Watson Wyatt India came into existence when the foreign company took over the famed actuarial firm M C Chakravarti & Co, Kolkatta, in April 2002 and converted it into a corporate offering actuarial services company.

The company is lobbying for allowing actuarial consultancy under a corporate structure in India. The Institute of Actuaries of India Bill, modelled on the lines of the law governing chartered accountants institute, allows only individuals and partnerships to practice. The domestic actuarial profession itself is divided in the middle on this issue.