Want to work in consultancy? Here, Kirsty Sellar explains what it’s like being a consultant at PwC and how to become and actuarial consultant…
When and why did you choose an actuarial career?
Growing up I never knew what I wanted to do (I changed my mind weekly!) so when it came to picking university courses during my final year of school I had no idea where to even begin. I had always enjoyed maths and sciences so started looking into courses along those lines when I stumbled across the Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics course at Heriot-Watt; I had never heard of an actuary before but the statistical, risk and analytical side of the course appealed to me.
I really enjoyed my degree but I had a nagging doubt in my mind that maybe I would enjoy another maths based career such as accountancy better. A summer internship with an accountancy firm soon corrected that; and I went into my final year of university certain an actuarial career was for me!
Briefly explain what your work involves, practice area, etc
I work in Actuarial Insurance Management Solutions based in Edinburgh. I work in life insurance mainly and I have worked on a variety on different projects since I joined, ranging from auditing large insurance companies to organising a volunteering event for the Edinburgh office.
I spend a lot of time working on client sites both in Edinburgh and throughout the UK.
This allows me to experience a wide variety of work and gain experience in many different areas of the life insurance industry.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
As I work in a consultancy, I think communication is a key skill which is essential for my job. It is important to be able to communicate clearly with both colleagues and clients; including explaining complex information in simple understandable way to non-actuaries.
What do you like most about your job as a consultant at PwC?
I really enjoy my job and find the work really interesting and challenging but the thing I like most about my job is the people I work with.
From the day I started at PwC I have been made to feel welcome in the team and have been provided with great support. In particular, people are always willing to answer your questions even if they aren’t working on that piece of work with you or take the time to explain something which you are unfamiliar with.
I love the variety of work that I get the opportunity to do; working on different clients and different projects throughout the year.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
I think it is important to be realistic and be aware there are times where you may have to work late; and you will have to study in the evenings and/or at weekends close to exams. However this is only in the short term and I generally have not found it hard to achieve a good work/life balance.
The important thing is to leave work at work and ensure you enjoy your spare time. Being organised and writing a daily to do list also helps me maintain a good work/life balance as it allows me to prioritise the tasks I need to get done each day.
My future plans are to qualify and to continue to gain experience within my field and expand my technical knowledge. The actuarial profession is changing from the traditional fields; therefore it is impossible to know where my career will be in 20 years time but I hope to continue to find the work as interesting and enjoyable as I do today.
Any advice you may have for others considering an actuarial career
When I began researching actuarial careers, I thought most actuaries were maths geeks who loved to do complicated calculations that nobody understood – in reality that is not true. Therefore my advice would be don’t believe the stereotype! In my experience, numerical skills is only a small part of being an actuary with communication being equally important if not more so!
Ensure that you fully research the career and are confident it is for you. As there will be times when you are studying for exams; when you need to remind yourself why you are doing it.