What is it like joining an actuarial graduate programme? Lydia Hipps an actuarial associate at PwC tells us about her role and offers her advice for those looking to become…
Why did you choose an Actuarial Graduate Programme at PwC?
I chose a job as an actuary because it allows me to apply and develop statistical techniques I had picked up through my Economics degree at Durham University, whilst also gaining a highly respected professional qualification.
Furthermore, I have always enjoyed working in a team, and the project-based nature of the work I do at PwC gives me variety and enables me to gain experience working for a large range of clients, as well as collaborate with a wide variety of people across the department. Actuaries are considered experts in their field, and working as an Associate on the Actuarial Graduate Programme at PwC provides me with opportunities to develop my technical and communication skills, as well as work in teams of people who encourage me to challenge myself, whilst also providing support and coaching when I need it.
What are your main duties?
I work in the Actuarial Services team and the main work I get involved in is non-life insurance, life insurance, banking and corporates. The projects I have worked on so far include:
- A reserve review for a non-life insurer: I was involved with performing projections, reconciliation of data, and helping to produce a report and slide pack for use in committee meetings.
- Some IFRS9 (International Financial Reporting Standards) work for a large bank: this involved coding in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications – the programming language of Excel and other Office programmes) to build a data review module, so that the client could easily identify errors in their data. I had never done any type of coding before but I really enjoyed learning a completely new skill and using it to help solve a problem for the client.
- A non-life audit: this allowed me to set up analysis files on Excel, perform projections and get involved with Solvency II work. I a deeper understanding of the regulation faced by insurance companies.
As you can see, in the eight months I have been at PwC I have already worked on a range of different projects. I have also had the opportunity to attend client meetings, and present my work to managers, directors and partners. The constant opportunities for personal development and intellectual challenge are aspects of my job that I really enjoy and thrive on.
Alongside the various projects I have been working on, I have also been studying for exams in order to qualify as an actuary. Exam sittings happen twice a year, and we are supported by being given a set number of study days per exam, as well as a study budget to purchase study materials and book tutorials. We are also assigned a study mentor who we can go to for advice about which exams to take and how to prepare for them. Although the exams are challenging, the high level of support enables us to achieve as highly as possible.
How did you get your job at PwC?
I completed a six-week internship at PwC in the summer between my second and third years of my degree, and was offered a graduate job based on the feedback I had received on my internship.
An internship is a great way to ‘fast-track’ to a graduate career. The application process for interns is the same as for graduates. When applying, it is important to think about why you want the job, and how your skills align to the skills that the job requires. It is also useful to have a look at the companies values, and think about how you have demonstrated them in previous employment and extra-curricular activities.
What skills are useful in this profession?
The following skills are ones which I think are particularly important in the actuarial profession:
- Technical skills: it is important to enjoy maths and statistics, as the work that actuaries do involves quantifying and analysing risk using statistical techniques.
- Communication: actuaries are often required to explain complex concepts to non-actuaries in a way that they will understand, which requires a firm understanding of the work that has been performed, as well as the ability to explain it in a simple and easy-to-follow way.
- Teamwork: being an actuary involves working in a team environment. This means that it is important to be able to collaborate effectively with colleagues, as well as successfully managing your time when working on multiple projects, particularly when there are tight deadlines that must be met.
Do you have advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
I would strongly encourage you to get into the industry if you want a job that is intellectually stimulating, varied, and collaborative. Doing some work experience or an internship is a great way to see if you enjoy the kind of work that this job entails. Learning about events and new regulations affecting the work that actuaries do may also help in interviews: examples of this include Solvency II and the Ogden rate change that happened last year.