I graduated from Oxford University with a Masters degree in Physics in July 2011. Guy Carpenter kick-started my actuarial career with an analyst position in September. I am currently studying for the actuarial exams and sat my first modules in April.
What does Guy Carpenter do?
Guy Carpenter is a reinsurance and risk intermediary. Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers. Our primary task is helping our clients place their reinsurance with Lloyds of London or other reinsurance companies. If effectively placed, it helps clients cope with large claims they wouldn’t otherwise be able to survive – similarly to how primary insurance protects the public. It also spreads the risk of losses over larger populations than insurance companies can effectively manage; preventing insurers from losing out if a big loss affects an entire region, or an entire population subgroup, where they make business.
How did you get your job at Guy Carpenter?
I was contacted by a recruitment consultant in the summer following graduation, who suggested the actuarial profession would suit someone of my background. I interviewed for several actuarial positions in the following month and – following many challenging, and many more unsuccessful interviews – received several offers. I started working at Guy Carpenter in September.
What is a typical day like for you?
The reinsurance workplace tends to be closer to consulting than traditional insurance. I frequently work with many clients simultaneously, which can get very intense. The tasks I perform vary in both difficulty and length; from cleaning up spreadsheets just received from clients, so we can input data into our models; to building complex reinsurance structures, and their respective models, completely from scratch. As an intermediary, Guy Carpenter is completely focused on serving its clients in the best way possible. My actuarial training has equipped me with strong technical expertise to allow me to achieve this.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
There are many things to enjoy about working at Guy Carpenter, as there is with many actuarial firms. The pay is good, the work is interesting, and I’m actively improving my skills in a way which many careers do not offer so early on. Most of all, I enjoy working with a team of like-minded individuals on a common objective we all believe in.
What are the most stressful parts of the job?
I rarely get stressed at work. Better overworked than underworked! Fitting in study and adequate exam preparation, however, is not easy. If an exam is a week away there’s a lot less time remaining than at university – as I’d most likely be in office for five days out of the available seven. Rigorous time management is critical. Fortunately I’ve learned to manage data well, with spreadsheets, as part of my training. A few thousand hours is nothing compared to a few million insurance claims!
What was the interview process like?
The interviews were hard, but it’s understandable why it was necessary. Thinking and communicating on the spot, in unfamiliar territory to unfamiliar audiences, is an important part of my role. My interviews at Guy Carpenter were fairly standard for graduate positions – questions about me and my experiences mixed in with technical ‘critical thinking’ style problems. The key in both types of question is how you communicate your answers as opposed to what you say. Practice was very important.
Any advice for the interview process?
Be prepared to do a lot of them. It’s not uncommon for an interview to go perfectly well and yet not be offered a position. This can happen for a variety of reasons; the competition for the role could be very fierce, and an employer needs to be completely certain you’ll fit in with existing employees. In either case – it’s never personal. If a recruitment consultant is getting you plenty of interviews, it’s mostly a numbers game before you get a position. Just ditch the recruiter if they aren’t (there’s plenty out there!), and make sure you really want the jobs you’re applying for. Interviewers can sniff out lack of motivation instantly.
Is there a work/life balance?
Yes, although I don’t agree with the term ‘balance’ as it implies the two are separate. If my home life is good I rock up at work with a smile on my face, bursting with energy, and perform well; if not my work suffers. It’s also important for work to provide a continuous, but not overwhelming, challenge otherwise it affects my home life in a negative way.
What ‘soft skills’ have you found useful?
Managing time well has been paramount. It’s important to manage both long-term important, but not urgent, tasks along with those that are urgent, but less important. An ability to work well in any team is important, but this is something interviewers try to assess before employing you. Staying proactive and on the ball in fast-paced environments is also important – not just so you can do your job well, but so you enjoy doing it!