• Role: Actuarial Analyst
  • Location: Cheltenham
  • University: York
  • Degree: Mathematics and Economics
  • Organisation: Capita

Max Palfreman

Why did you choose a job in this profession?

Having studied Mathematics and Economics at university, I wanted a career which was highly mathematical but would also allow me to continue to learn and develop. Whilst my current role as an Actuarial Analyst clearly requires strong mathematical ability, it also requires a good level of IT competence. When I first joined, I was not particularly confident with my IT skills but throughout my time at Capita I have been encouraged to develop these skills. I have been given opportunities to improve my coding through internal training courses as well gaining experience using packages such as Microsoft Office and various Actuarial modelling software such as Prophet.

Alongside the practical on-the-job learning, the actuarial exams give the theoretical background. Whilst it is difficult balancing full-time work with study, I have found the content interesting which makes studying much more manageable. I feel that the content of the actuarial exams has developed my understanding of the actuarial profession and has supplemented my overall development.

What does Capita Life and Pensions do?

I am currently working in the Cheltenham Capita Actuarial team. Capita Life and Pensions is an outsourcer and as such there are multiple books of business that are being worked on, as well as several ad-hoc areas of work. Within the Cheltenham team, there are two main types of Actuarial work: Corporate Reporting and Actuarial Services. I have been able to spend time working on both. Corporate Reporting involves performing regular Actuarial Valuations as well as maintaining and making any necessary regulatory changes to the systems. In recent years this has revolved around the introduction of Solvency 2.

The Actuarial Services branch of the team is where I am currently based. Our main roles are answering complex policyholder requests and maintaining and improving the systems that are used to administer the policies.

The Capita Life and Pensions team is a team of around 100 people. The working environment is very friendly, with everyone happy to help when an issue arises.

What was the application process like?

The application process was relatively straightforward. After applying via the online application form, I was invited to take part in a 45-minute telephone interview with two of the managers. Having completed the interview, the next step was an assessment day held in the Cheltenham office. The assessment day consisted of a briefing on the type of work that was carried out in the team at Capita, followed by an interview, various other assessments and a chance to meet the most recent batch of graduates to talk through their experience during their first year at Capita.

My advice when it comes to applying for actuarial roles is to prepare as much as you can and to just be yourself. The assessment day is a two way process and it’s as much about the company getting to know you as it is about you getting to know the company, so ensure you come prepared with some questions.

Is it a 9-5 job?

At Capita, work/life balance is important, and we are not expected to work excessive extra hours. However, during busy periods or when deadlines are close there may be some expectation to do a bit extra to help the team meet the targets. This is in contrast to many jobs in finance, where long hours are the norm!

What skills are useful in this profession?

In the actuarial profession, a wide range of skills are needed. Having a decent grounding in software such as Microsoft Office will be beneficial as this is used daily. Excel skills in particular are important and if you are proficient with Excel, that should give you a head start in your actuarial career.

Coding experience will also help as most of the processes and systems used within Actuarial work will be based on computer languages, so being able to investigate how the process works will help you to understand the process itself.

As well as the skills mentioned above, actuaries will need a number of “soft” skills. The key “soft” skill that is required is communication. Not everyone will be able to speak the actuarial lingo and it’s quite likely that you will need to explain complicated actuarial concepts to a non-technical audience, so having the ability and patience to communicate complex concepts will be key.

Another key skill is the ability to manage your time wisely. In my team, it is very common to have several projects on the go at any one time, some more time critical than others, so the ability to keep on top of urgent projects whilst making sure less urgent projects don’t get forgotten is very important.

Finally, the ability to cooperate and work collaboratively within your own team as well as with teams outside of the actuarial department is crucial in delivering the various projects to the deadlines set.

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