• Role: Actuarial Summer Student
  • University: Lancaster
  • Degree: Mathematics
  • Organisation: Barnett Waddingham

Alice Makinson

Whilst in secondary school, one of my classmate’s parents was an actuary and came in to school to do a careers session with me. He told me: “If you enjoy maths, then becoming an actuary would be the ideal career for you. It’s a job in which you really get to use your maths skills!” Ever since then, I was intrigued by the career and wanted to find out more.
An actuarial internship during the summer of my second year at university seemed like the perfect opportunity to find out what actuaries actually do and whether it was a career I wanted to pursue.

A week in the life of an actuarial summer intern

Day to day work
Each week began with the team jobs meeting in which we discussed what projects everyone was working on during the week. This gave all the members of the team the chance to share work if they were busy, and to take on more work if they had capacity. It also gave the team the opportunity to involve me in suitable tasks. Everyone was very keen to include me in any jobs they had of an appropriate level and I even got invited to attend a Trustee meeting with one of the Partners of the firm during my first week! These weekly meetings also proved to me the great level of support available at Barnett Waddingham and the importance of teamwork within the company.
My week then consisted of a variety of tasks including:

  • Individual member calculations
  • Helping out with the various stages of an actuarial valuation including checking the data, performing line checks and drafting reports
  • Attending internal webinars and team training sessions
  • Providing assistance to all members of the team with their day to day client work including drafting emails, drafting reports and letters, updating internal systems and gathering information

To help me complete these tasks I had regular structured training sessions in which I learnt about how actuarial calculations work and how to use our internal systems as well as general information about pensions and the laws and regulations governing them. I also had meetings with my mentor and supervisor who provided me with great support and guided me through a structured development programme throughout my internship.

Internship projects

During times of the week where my workload was lighter, I spent time preparing for five projects which had been set as part of my internship and reflected the different areas within Barnett Waddingham.

  • A presentation about why Liverpool is a good city to live and work in
  • A competition with the investment consulting team in which all the interns, and many members of the investment consulting team, chose a portfolio of assets in which we
    could invest an imaginary £1 million. We chose our portfolio at the beginning of the 8 week internship and were sent an email each week to inform us of how our investments had performed. At the end of the internship, I had a discussion with some members of the investment team about how my portfolio had performed and what I would have done differently if I could choose a portfolio again using the knowledge I had gained from my internship.
  • A corporate consulting case study and presentation
  • A presentation at a team meeting about recent pensions news
  • A letter writing exercise

It was my responsibility to complete these tasks around other work during my internship. This gave me the opportunity to develop time management skills and learn to prioritise tasks.

These projects also helped me to develop my presenting and researching skills, which I had not utilised a great deal during my first two years at university. These skills are not only highly valued in actuarial firms, but also in many other careers. My internship therefore provided me with a great opportunity to develop a range of transferable skills.

Opportunities in other teams

During some weeks, I would spend a day with one of the other practice areas. This included a day spent with the administration team and another day spent with the Workplace Health and Wealth team. Although my internship was on the trustee consulting team, I was also fortunate enough to gain experience in the other actuarial team in the office, the investment consulting team. I helped with preparing investment monitoring reports which gave me an insight into the different specialisms within the actuarial industry.

Social events

A typical week would then end with some drinks after work or other social events with my team as well as other colleagues from the entire office. Events ranged from a treasure hunt around Liverpool, an evening out in a local bar, playing table tennis and enjoying a pop up champagne bar outside our office. I was really impressed by the friendliness and the sociable atmosphere at Barnett Waddingham. It made my internship an extremely enjoyable experience and I was delighted when I was offered a job at Barnett Waddingham at the end.

Advice for those looking for internships

Applying
Apply to internships that stand out to you and interest you. Barnett Waddingham particularly stood out to me because of its friendly approach as well as it being a firm with a strong ethos. This proved to be the case and was one of the main reasons I was keen to accept my job offer at the end of my internship.

Spend time on your application.
It is much more effective to do a few really good applications than to do many but to a poor standard. Do not be tempted to reuse applications for different internships as the employers will notice.

Speak to your university’s career service.
They may be able to offer help with the application, mock telephone interviews, mock assessment centres, etc. I did a mock assessment centre with my university’s career service before my internship assessment day and it really helped me as I knew what to expect and I was given helpful advice on how I could perform well on the day.

During your internship

Be enthusiastic and pro-active.
Take as many opportunities as you can because an internship is a great way to discover about what you like and don’t like.

Don’t be afraid to say if you don’t understand.
Remember that you are not expected to know everything and you are there to learn.

Enjoy it!
Even if you decide early on in the internship that the careen no longer appeals to you, remain positive! An internship will give you many valuable transferable skills and looks really impressive to employers on your CV, so you will still gain a lot out of it. It will either confirm for you that you would like to pursue the career or it will confirm that you do not, either of these outcomes will be valuable to you and help you make important decisions about your future.

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