Why did you join Barnett Waddingham?
I studied mathematics and economics at university, and was keen to find a career which would allow me to combine the two subjects. A good work-life balance was also a top priority, and Barnett Waddingham struck me as a company that prioritises its people, not profit.
The working atmosphere is always laid back, but with a strong focus on providing a great service to our clients. There’s also a real emphasis on training and personal development, which is incredibly valuable especially for more junior employees. Barnett Waddingham provides work that is challenging and fulfilling, but not all-consuming.
What are your main duties at the moment?
Over my 13 months at Barnett Waddingham, I have spent 4 in the Investment Consulting (IC) team and 9 in the Actuarial Consulting (AC) team.
In IC, which provides investment advice to pension schemes, my work involved preparing investment monitoring reports, implementing changes to investment strategy, and providing advice on new fund managers.
In AC, which provides actuarial advice to pension scheme trustees, common tasks include calculating the value of an individual member’s pension, drafting a funding report for the trustees, performing data checks and organising a client meeting. Some less common, larger jobs include performing a full pension scheme valuation, estimating the impact of certain factors on scheme funding (e.g. a switch from RPI inflation to CPI), and helping out on “expert witness” cases where a senior actuary is called upon to provide an expert view on legal disputes.
In addition to client work, there are always opportunities to both give and receive training, and present current pensions topics at monthly team meetings.
What was the recruitment process like?
I applied for the 8 week summer internship online while in my penultimate year of study. After a brief telephone interview, I was invited to attend an assessment day at the London office in December (right in the middle of my exams!). The assessment day consisted of an interview, an actuarial case study, a presentation on a mathematical topic, two computer-based psychometric tests and a teamwork activity with the other applicants. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and we had the opportunity to chat informally with the interviewers between sessions. Within a few weeks I was offered an internship at the London office.
During the internship I was treated just like a permanent member of staff. I was given client work from day one, attended training sessions and team meetings alongside my colleagues, and was encouraged to participate in social events out-of-hours. There were a few assessment elements to the internship, including a team meeting presentation, investment and corporate consulting case studies, a letter-writing exercise, and a data checking exercise.
All in all, I think the process is designed to recruit applicants who are competent, willing to work hard, and easy to work with.
How do you combine working with the actuarial exams?
The opportunity to study while working is one of the great attractions of the actuarial profession. Barnett Waddingham offers a generous study support package, including funding for exam materials and up to 40 days per year off work to study. The idea of studying alongside work takes a bit of getting used to at first, but is ultimately very rewarding. Unlike university, you are actually being paid to learn!
The curriculum gives you the flexibility to choose what exams you take each sitting, meaning you can effectively tailor how much time you want to spend studying. I generally study one day per week in the lead up to exams, and occasionally study for a few hours on the weekends as well if necessary. Ultimately the results you get are a function of the effort you put in, so be prepared to find the exams difficult if you don’t put in the hours.
What do you enjoy about working at Barnett Waddingham the most?
The control I have over my work-life balance. The option is always there to put in the extra hours if necessary, but it is the norm for most of my colleagues to work no more than 9 to 5. There is definitely no pressure to stay late to impress anyone.
There is also a focus on training and personal development which means my skills are constantly improving. Mistakes are encouraged, in order to learn from them. Thinking back to how incompetent I was as a new graduate, I am genuinely amazed at how much I have learned over such a short time.