• Role: Actuarial Analyst
  • University: Imperial
  • Degree: MSci Mathematics
  • Organisation: KPMG

Will Ellison

I’d always wanted a job that would stretch me intellectually and I’d focused on the actuarial profession since the early days of my degree due to its quantitative nature. I graduated from Imperial College with a first class MSc degree in mathematics and having had a successful internship with KPMG, I joined the firm as a graduate trainee.

An actuarial qualification is very highly regarded and for good reason – the exams are tough (but doable) and give you an excellent platform for your career. The ‘core’ (CT/CA) exams give a very broad level of knowledge in a lot of different areas, while the final ‘specialist’ (SA/ST) exams are more focused on the particular area that you work in.

Having been here for just over a year I have now completed the first six CT written exams, and one of the three ‘practical’ (course-based) exams. Many people receive exemptions from some of the early exams. Unfortunately, I was not one of them having focused more on pure maths in my degree. In the long term, I don’t think it makes too much difference.

What does KPMG do?

KPMG is one of the world’s largest professional services firms. Although perhaps best known for its audit services, it offers a very wide range of advisory services. The General (or Non-Life) Insurance Actuarial team is part of a broader Risk and Compliance department within the advisory arm of the firm. Some actuarial projects we work on include:

  • Reserving – we perform independent valuations of the reserves set by insurers. This includes the specialist services that we provide for our audit teams, as well as independent reviews and producing the Lloyd’s Statement of Actuarial Opinion (SAO) for various Lloyd’s syndicates.
  • Advice on mergers and acquisitions – this involves valuing the liabilities of an insurance company and reviewing the quality of underwriting and capital management as part of the due diligence process before a merger or acquisition.
  • Capital modelling and Solvency II – we have advised on, helped build and run capital models for insurers. Given the current regulatory environment in the insurance world (in particular, preparing for the new Solvency II regime), this is something with which Insurance actuaries have been heavily involved.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

There is the great variety of work that comes with working in a consultancy business. This is especially true in the General Insurance sector, where the projects are often smaller than in the Life Insurance sector. Secondly, KPMG has always had a great reputation as a ‘people’ firm, and I definitely feel that it lives up to it – the atmosphere is very friendly and supportive.

What ‘soft skills’ have you found useful?

There are several myths about actuaries and their lack of certain social skills (google ‘actuarial jokes’!), but I don’t think there is a lot of truth in them. Often our actuaries work as part of larger teams and so interaction amongst the different departments and within their own teams is critical. Likewise, interaction with clients is critical to an advice-based business such as ours. I therefore believe that one of the most useful skills is the ability to build relationships, whether this is internally or with clients.

In addition, communication is a key actuarial skill and one which is examined as part of the qualification process.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

First, I would like to finish the exams. After this I would like to continue to develop my skills in the area – the Actuarial Profession places a huge amount of importance on CPD once qualification is achieved. Development of soft skills and a good general knowledge of the financial world are also high on my list.

Is there a work/life balance?

Definitely – although the extent to which this is true will depend on how many exams you decide to take in each sitting. One of the great things about the Actuarial exams is that you can take them at your own pace. I took three exams in each of my first two sittings and still had plenty of time to keep up my other interests – I’m a keen sportsman and like to stay fit by running and playing tennis and Rugby Fives, in which I compete in many tournaments throughout the year.

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