There are many roles you can progress to in an actuarial career; Here, you can learn more about what it’s like being a Principal at Punter Southall to give you more insight into the profession.
I joined Punter Southall in 1999 as a graduate. Seventeen years later I am Co-Managing Director of our investment consultancy business, chairman of the Group’s investment committee and a senior member of the manager research team. I advise both trustees and employers on a wide range of actuarial, funding and investment matters.
I hold a Scheme Actuary certificate and am authorised to provide investment advice by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Understanding both the liability and asset side helps ensure I deliver a truly joined-up investment and actuarial service to my clients.
I have also spent time working within the Punter Southall Group’s specialist team developing and implementing products to help control both liability and asset risk for pension schemes, including both pooled and bespoke liability hedging products and structured equity arrangements.
Within the wider industry, I am a regular speaker at seminars and a member of the investment committees for both the Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) and the Society of Pension Professionals (SPP). In the past, I have been publications editor for the ACA and a marker for the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ pension and investment examinations.
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I first heard of an actuary as a 13 year-old after it came up as my number one suggested job following a questionnaire with my school’s career adviser! I immediately forgot about it until I stumbled across some actuarial job descriptions at university. The more I then read about the profession the more I realised it could be a really good fit for me. I wanted to work in finance, to study towards a professional qualification and to have the option to utilise my IT skills.
What is a typical day like for you as a Principal at Punter Southall?
Every day is different! I tend to spend most of my time at client meetings with trustees and employers, discussing the current challenges facing their pension schemes. These meetings last anything between a half and a whole day. They normally happen every three months but there is a lot to do in-between each quarterly get-together.
This week, for example, I did a pitch to an employer for some investment consulting work, had a discussion with our Chief Executive about future growth areas for our business and worked with my team members on progressing a number of key client projects, including asset strategy reviews and actuarial valuations. However, it’s not all work. I’ve also managed to attend Punter Southall’s golf day, a retirement lunch for one of my trustees and an evening get-together with my fellow Punter Southall Principals.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Lots of things, but mainly the variety of work and the people. Working at Punter Southall I have been able to experience a diverse range of roles and positions: actuarial team leader, seminar speaker, secondee to our asset management business, media contact, chair of technical sub-committees – not to mention captain of the office cricket team!
With pension scheme clients you end up dealing with an interesting mix of people including lay trustees with limited pensions experience, professional advisers such as lawyers and very senior individuals from a pension scheme’s sponsoring employer such as Chief Finance Officers.
On a more personal level, having worked for the same employer for almost 18 years, I consider myself very lucky to have met so many nice people, many of whom have become very close friends over the years.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Great – you won’t regret it! The actuarial profession can offer graduates a lot, but perhaps the best endorsement I can provide is that most actuaries I know enjoy their job!
The best advice I can provide to someone starting out is to be open and flexible – the job you might start as a graduate will be very different in ten years’ time. Welcome opportunities to do new things, look to develop your skills and broaden your knowledge and experience so you can adapt to the as yet unknown changes that will undoubtedly happen in the future.