Balancing a family life and a demanding job with high responsibility can be extremely difficult to achieve; Laura explains how she does it and why she loves life as an actuary.
Not sure which role you want to pursue? Learn more about what it’s like being a Senior Qualified Actuary at Prudential here…
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
From a young age I had always wanted to be a teacher, and as I really enjoyed maths at school it was my intention to become a maths teacher. I therefore chose to go to Stirling University where it was possible to complete teacher training at the same time as my degree.
Whilst I enjoyed the teaching, I also felt a bit too young to go straight into a teaching career. The bulk of my fellow trainee teachers were mature students and I had joined university a year earlier than most of my peers. I therefore decided to look into other possible career opportunities.
I did a bit of research and went along to careers fairs, where I spoke to representatives from a wide variety of professions. Becoming an actuary seemed to be an ideal career for me. It made use of my mathematical, analytical and communication skills, provided a challenging career and had the added bonus of paying reasonably well!
I joined Prudential (formerly Scottish Amicable) in 1999 after graduating and have been here ever since.
I’ve worked in a number of different areas in my time here, and since qualifying in 2007 have been in Financial Reporting where I am now in charge of a team responsible for reporting results for a number of financial metrics. The team is made up of a wide range of people and includes sandwich students who have taken a year out of university, staff who are not actuaries or sitting exams, trainee actuaries and other qualified actuaries.
What is a typical day like for you as a Senior Qualified Actuary at Prudential?
A typical day would involve getting up around 06.30 and getting both myself and my toddler son dressed, fed and watered. I drop him off at nursery for 08.00 and head into the office where my first job is checking and replying to emails (both from within the actuarial department and wider afield).
Being in charge of a team of people, I need to be on top of all the deadlines for the work required that day, week or in the longer term and ensure the work is being progressed as needed to meet those deadlines. I need to make sure that everyone in the team is coping with their workload and on track to achieve our targets.
Generally a chunk of my day will be taken up answering queries, supporting team members and providing ‘on-the-job’ training. I will also be attending meetings, which can be on anything to do with future projects, reporting metrices, reporting deadlines, people management or a number of other topics.
Finally I also need some time to review the numbers prepared in the team.
I try to keep work to work time, however it is not always possible, particularly around the main reporting times for year-end, mid-year and forecasting. As a result I sometimes need to work long hours. My son always comes first though, so where I can I leave work at a reasonable time to pick him up from nursery, and spend a couple of hours with him before logging back on when he goes to sleep.
Outside of the main reporting periods I avoid this, as a work/life balance is very important to me, and I like to find ‘me’ time as well as family time outside of work.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
There is a real sense of achievement in preparing and understanding all the results we provide in such tight timescales. I enjoy being in charge of a hard working financial reporting team. I have a good set of colleagues within the office and we get on both at work and socially.
The location of the office is also great, as I live only ten minutes away. This helps me to manage my work/life balance, as I don’t lose a large portion of my day to travel.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
I don’t have any specific goals for the future at the moment, although perhaps I should! As long as I continue to be happy and challenged within my role then I am content. With all the changes happening in the industry at the moment there is plenty of opportunity for personal development.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Be prepared for interviews. Think about the skills that we might be looking for in you, which will include being a team player, motivated and professional as well as having numerical skills. Be prepared to give some practical examples where you have demonstrated these skills. Also do your research and be prepared to talk about the company you are applying to with some understanding of their business.
Getting a job as an actuarial trainee is only the start, you need to be prepared to work hard in the office and study hard outside of the office in order to progress in your career and pass the exams.