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  • Name: Leigh Culling
  • Job Title: Summer Intern
  • Location: Bristol
  • University: Bath
  • Degree: Mathematics
  • Fields of Work: Pensions

What is it like working as a summer intern at Aon? Leigh Culling gives us an overview and offers advice to those looking to enter the actuarial profession…

Why did you choose to do an internship?

I wanted an opportunity that would provide me with an insight into the business I was joining, as well as the wider profession before I committed to a graduate career. A summer internship with Aon provided me with this. I was particularly impressed with the Corporate Social Responsibility programme, which I was able to contribute to during the internship by organising fundraising events for a local charity.

After completing the internship, I was offered a place on the graduate programme, following the completion of my degree at the University of Bath. It was great to enter my final year at university knowing that I only had to concentrate on my studies, rather than also trying to apply for graduate roles at the same time.

What was the application process like – any advice?

 I completed an online application form and two online tests; the final stage was then assessment centre, which was actually quite an enjoyable day! We had to do a series of group exercises to show how we could arrive at a solution to various problems. For example, we had to play the role of a complaints department where we received a series of complaints which we had to prioritise and then present our solutions.

I would recommend doing some research into the industry you wish to apply for. I was asked to give a five minute presentation on a pensions-related topic. If you do your research you can show that you have a genuine interest in the industry and how new legislation or economic factors may affect the company you are applying for. I also think it’s fair to say that most graduates applying for an actuarial role will have the academic capability, therefore try to stand out from the crowd by sharing your other interests and hobbies.

What attracted you to your role as a Summer Intern at Aon?

I was attracted to working in pensions because the retirement landscape is forever changing. The recent low gilt yield environment and the introduction of various pensions-related legislation has led actuaries to continually evolve their methods to keep up with their competitors and has provided a wide variety of work. You can find out more about the future of the pensions sector here.

What were your main duties?

As a summer intern at Aon, I was involved in a lot of valuation work, which is a triennial assessment of a pension scheme’s ability to pay future benefits to its members. This exposed me to a wide range of work, as for smaller schemes I was and still am involved in building the valuation models based on our interpretation of the scheme rules. For larger schemes, I am now more involved in the management of the valuation process.

Do you have any advice for those looking to enter the profession?

An actuarial career can be extremely rewarding if you’re willing to put the hard work in. I think the best advice would be to do your research. Decide whether you’re willing to commit your time to passing the exams and find out which area suits you best. I chose pensions as it offers more of a consulting role and I like the client-facing side of the work we do.

I think a lot of actuarial students are used to being high performers at school and university and then get a bit of a shock when the office work and exams are very challenging. You have to be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them as in our job it’s not always easy to get things right first time.

What were the most important things you learnt from the internship?

I think one of the most important skills I learnt is the importance of explaining complex ideas in a non-technical way. When communicating results to a client it’s important to explain things in a way they understand. Most actuaries have very strong technical skills but as a profession it’s important that we can also communicate effectively with our clients. The profession has started to address this by introducing exams such as CA3, which is a two-day communications course.

With a lot of actuarial work, you have to meet quite tight deadlines to keep clients happy. This can be quite stressful at times, when you have to meet deadlines for more than one client. I learnt it’s important to manage your time well and not be afraid to let your team know if you don’t have the capacity to take on additional work, most people would rather you do this than let your work build up and up. And of course, as an actuarial student, getting the right work/study/life balance can be stressful at times!

Finally, during my internship and subsequently I’ve learnt studying in addition to working can take up a lot of your spare time. You have to be disciplined and reward yourself with a night off if you have had a good day of study. I have found getting up early and doing some studying in the morning before work has allowed me to free up more of my evenings to relax. In my spare time I like to play sport and since joining Aon, I’ve met lots of work colleagues who I play squash against!

Check out more actuarial roles on our Careers Advice page.

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