Charlotte Yuen tells us what it was like as an actuarial summer student with Hymans Robertson and offers her advice to those looking for an actuarial internship
Why did you choose to do an internship?
I knew I wanted to become an actuary as I really enjoyed my degree, but I had no idea what the working world would be like. So before I graduated I wanted to do an internship to find out what kind of work I would be doing in the future and to see if I would like it. There are different sectors you can work in, with pensions and insurance being the main ones. I chose pensions because it seemed to involve a lot of interaction with clients, which is an area I lacked experience in. I thought it would be a good way to brush up my skills in this area as it wasn’t something you could really learn at university! Hymans Robertson gave me the impression of a friendly and encouraging environment, which was perfect for developing my career.
What were your main duties as a Summer Student at Hymans Robertson?
As an intern you wouldn’t be expected to be going to formal external meetings already, but I was nevertheless given a lot of responsibility. I did a wide range of work, from calculating how much individual scheme member’s pension was worth, to building large spreadsheets to analyse data, to drafting reports on the financial health of a whole scheme. People were willing to get me involved with bigger pieces of work even though I was only there for 8 weeks and it might have taken longer for them to explain.
I also worked with another intern to scope out a project to launch a new piece of software in the office, which was very interesting as we got to speak to many people (including senior partners!). There was a lot of planning and extensive discussions on how to implement it and all the different perspectives we need to consider. Although we spent a long time on the project, the work was very different to the day-to-day tasks because it made me think more broadly and commercially. At the end of the internship, I did a presentation explaining the project to some people from the leadership team.
What were the most important things you learnt from your internship?
- Never be afraid to ask questions! An internship is simply an opportunity for you to learn, so people will understand if you don’t know or are confused about something.
- Equally, there is no harm asking whether you can get involved in something even if it seems like a job for someone more senior because you will benefit a lot from it, and you might surprise yourself.
- Take time to network with people in the company – there is no better time to get to know others in the industry and listen to their experiences.
- Be critical – don’t just absorb everything you hear but think carefully the information you are receiving. It will help you understand how something works but could also give you an idea on how to improve how things are done.
Do you have any advice for someone seeking an internship?
- Thoroughly research what the company does and what you will do, to help you decide whether you would want to work there. When you get to the interview, get a feel for the company culture as it is so important that you fit in for your experience to be enjoyable.
- Also look out for topical issues in the industry to see how the work you will do fits into the wider picture.
- Related to the above, it’s good to practice how to explain the workings of complex concepts, because this will be a major part of every piece of work you do.
- Don’t worry if you find that the company or the work isn’t right or you. It will still be a very valuable experience because at least you know you want to do something
else! Also, the skills you learn, whether technical or ‘softer’ skills, are applicable to many areas of actuarial work.