Check out this actuarial employer Q&A from Willis Towers Watson to give you more insight into the actuarial profession. To begin the Actuarial Careers series of Employer Q&As, in October 2012 Willis Towers Watson answered your questions.

About Willis Towers Watson

Find out more about Willis Towers Watson and their actuarial opportunities.

Actuarial Employer Q&A – Willis Towers Watson: The Questions


What do you look for in applicants for your graduate schemes and placements?
What should I expect from the interviewing process when applying for graduate schemes and how can I prepare?
What are the most valuable characteristics, skills or former experiences needed when you select a trainee actuary?
What tasks and daily activities do actuarial graduates get involved in?
I have just graduated with a mathematics degree with no actuarial work experience, would I still be able to apply to graduate programmes at Willis Towers Watson?
If you don’t have direct work experience with an actuarial firm, what work experience is useful and how much should you have before applying for a graduate scheme?
I am currently a first-year undergraduate studying mathematics and I want to become an actuary in the future. What next steps should I take during my time at university to achieve this goal?
Are there opportunities for school leavers who want to become actuaries? What steps should they take to achieve this?
If vacancies are filled at a particular location, will applicants have the opportunity to be transferred to another location?
Do Willis Towers Watson offer industrial work placements as part of sandwich courses? If so, are they accepting applications for 2021?
How would you describe Willis Towers Watson’s work environment?
What are the most common current industrial/commercial challenges that your clients face?

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The Answers

What do you look for in applicants for your graduate schemes and placements?
Graduates from all kinds of backgrounds flourish at Willis Towers Watson. So we don’t mind what degree subject you’ve studied, as long as you have a 2:1 or higher. Essential qualities we look for include intellectual curiosity, a passion for business and a desire to keep on challenging yourself and driving your career forward. You’ll also need to be an outstanding communicator who knows how to cultivate relationships and work effectively in teams.

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What should I expect from the interviewing process when applying for graduate schemes and how can I prepare?
There are several stages to the application process. After initial application screening, candidates are invited to submit a recorded video interview.  Those who are selected to progress further will be invited to attend one of our assessment days.  For September 2021 positions, these assessment days will take place online and will include two live video interviews, each led by two colleagues from our Retirement business.

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What are the most valuable characteristics, skills or former experiences needed when you select a trainee actuary?
Essential qualities we look for include intellectual curiosity, a passion for business and a desire to keep on challenging yourself and driving your career forward. You’ll also need to be an outstanding communicator who knows how to cultivate relationships and work effectively in teams.  No specific experience is necessary.

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What tasks and daily activities do actuarial graduates get involved in? 
Our trainee consultants get involved in real client work from day 1. This exposure to client assignments will enable you to build up valuable experience and skills. You will work on a range of clients, with a variety of different colleagues.  The work may include calculation of pension benefits for individuals, or working with the team to value the pension benefits due to a whole scheme.  You will also be involved in preparing deliverables for clients, to help develop valuable communication skills.

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I have just graduated with a mathematics degree with no actuarial work experience, would I still be able to apply to graduate programmes at Willis Towers Watson?
Absolutely! No prior actuarial experience (or indeed any work experience) is required, we simply ask that you have a degree (2.1 or higher) and that you meet the requirements for joining the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (broadly speaking that you have a least an A-level or equivalent in mathematics).
We welcome applications from people with any degree; whilst most of trainee consultants have degrees with mathematical content, we also have some with degrees in totally unrelated subjects.
We will provide you with all the actuarial training and experience you need.

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If you don’t have direct work experience with an actuarial firm, what work experience is useful and how much should you have before applying for a graduate scheme?                                                                                                                                         We welcome applications from people with actuarial work experience, and those with none. Work experience in an actuarial firm will give you a taste of what it is really like and help you in your decision to pursue an actuarial career.
We operate an intern programme for those who are approaching their final year at university and wish to experience what it’s like to work in as a trainee consultant in Retirement at Willis Towers Watson.  We recruit many of our trainee consultants from those on our intern programme.
While all experience is valuable, we recognise it is not always possible to obtain relevant work experience and would not want a lack of work experience to prevent anyone from applying to join our trainee consultant programme.

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I am currently a first-year undergraduate studying mathematics and I want to become an actuary in the future. What next steps should I take during my time at university to achieve this goal?
Where available, you could choose courses that will provide you with exemptions from some of the actuarial exams that you will be expected to sit when you start work as a trainee consultant.
Apply to join an intern programme.  This will give you valuable experience and an insight into some of the different projects actuarial consultants get involved in.  We operate an intern programme for those who are approaching their final year at university and wish to experience what it’s like to work in as a trainee consultant in Retirement at Willis Towers Watson.  We recruit many of our trainee consultants from those on our intern programme.
Don’t neglect your wider skill set – get involved in things that interest you that will help you develop any other skills – from personal organisation to team work, communication to negotiation, there are plenty of wider skills that will help you in the future.
And don’t forget to enjoy yourself too!

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Are there opportunities for school leavers who want to become actuaries? What steps should they take to achieve this?
The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries requires a minimum level of qualifications to join and start the journey to qualifying as an actuary.  This is broadly equal to an A-level in mathematics, but please check their website for the details.
We currently only offer roles on our trainee consultant programme to university graduates.

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If vacancies are filled at a particular location, will applicants have the opportunity to be transferred to another location?
We recruit nationally within Great Britain.  If your application is successful and there are no trainee consultant vacancies in your preferred office location then you will be offered a role in another location, if there is one available.

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Do Willis Towers Watson offer industrial work placements as part of sandwich courses? If so, are they accepting applications for 2021?
At the moment we do not offer industrial work placements as part of sandwich courses.  We do run an intern programme over the summer, open to students approaching their final year at university who wish to experience what it’s like to work in as a trainee consultant in Retirement at Willis Towers Watson.  This typically runs for 10 weeks during June, July and August.

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How would you describe Willis Towers Watson’s work environment?
We are a friendly diverse group of professionals, who benefit from all the resources and opportunities that a large company can provide, while still maintaining our individuality. We work in collaborative teams, with most colleagues working on multiple teams with different colleagues serving a variety of clients, to access a range of experiences.

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What are the most common current industrial/commercial challenges that your clients face?
In the Retirement line of business most of our actuarial colleagues are focussed on pension-related risks and opportunities.  Our clients come from all different industries so we see a real range of different challenges and priorities.  While many of clients are companies, we also have many clients who are trustees of pension schemes – charged with acting in the best interests of the members of the pension scheme, separate from the sponsoring employer of the scheme.  COVID-19 has affected almost all our clients to some degree, some more than others.  Some schemes, such as those sponsored by airlines or hospitality firms, are focussed on maintaining or renegotiating the flow of contributions from the company to the scheme, given the significant financial stress in those industries.   Others are considering the potential impact of COVID-19 on current and future mortality rates.  Some are monitoring financial markets, ready to lock into an insurance policy for some or all of the scheme liabilities as and when the price is right.

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About the Author

  • About Abigail Page: Abigail made partner at Gibbons Mannington & Phipps at 26 and is now a general practice partner in a three office Chartered Accountancy Practice based in the South East. A qualified Chartered Accountant with the ICAEW (ACA) and Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA), Abigail provides technical advice to clients on Income Tax, CGT, IHT and Corporate Tax as well as providing accounting services to individuals, trusts and businesses.

Abigail Page

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