• Role: Actuarial Analyst
  • Location: London, Holborn
  • University: Warwick
  • Degree: Mathematics & Statistics
  • Organisation: Willis Towers Watson

Holly Layton

For most of my childhood I was adamant that I’d grow up to be a superhero, so to have ended up as an actuary was unexpected to say the least. Although it’s not quite as glamorous as the superhero lifestyle, it is an interesting and stimulating career that I love.

Why did you become an actuary?

I’ve always enjoyed maths and following on from my degree in Mathematics & Statistics at Warwick University I realised that the actuarial profession would be the perfect way to continue developing my knowledge of mathematical techniques. The fact that I had already taken six of the actuarial exams at university, and they’d been the subjects I enjoyed the most, confirmed it as an obvious career choice. I’ve not been disappointed either as it has proven to be an intellectually challenging profession that requires me to constantly develop and apply my knowledge to help clients in a business environment.

What process did you take in order to become an actuary?

I applied for a summer internship with Willis Towers Watson in my penultimate year of university and was subsequently offered a graduate position for when I finished at Warwick. The internship was a great way to gain an insight into the business before fully committing to the life of an actuary and I would strongly recommend getting work experience/an internship before you finish university. Not only does this give you a taste of what an actuary does, but it also looks impressive on your CV and could land you a permanent job.

What skills are useful in the actuarial profession?

Appreciating maths is important – a lot of the work is based on complex mathematical ideas, which are interesting for those who enjoy the subject. However, actuaries aren’t just nerds who love numbers. As well as understanding the mathematical concepts, it’s equally important to be able to communicate the ideas and meaning of the work you do to a non-technical audience. As with most corporate jobs, other skills, for example teamwork, time management and leadership skills are also key to becoming a successful actuary.

What do Willis Towers Watson do and what is your role within this?

Willis Towers Watson is an insurance brokerage and financial advisory company which has actuarial practices in Human Capital and Benefits (HCB) and Investment, Risk and Reinsurance (IRR). I work within IRR, in the main actuarial division, Risk Consulting and Software Solutions (RCS). RCS provide insurance consulting to the world’s top general and life insurers. Since starting in September 2015 I have been involved in a variety of work within both the general and life insurance practices. A lot of the initial work involves reviewing and updating models in order to learn more about the business and gain a better understanding of what services are provided. However, you very quickly are given more responsibility and develop a key role in the teams that you work with.

What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome these?

The most challenging aspect of the job is definitely the balance between study and work. You no longer have weeks of holiday for cramming and you can’t rely on having subconsciously picked up some of the material in lessons/lectures. You have to organise how, when and what you’re going to study and keep tabs on your own progress. It takes a lot of self-discipline to maintain this for the three or more years it takes you to qualify. It is partly a test of perseverance as to whether you can get through the qualification, but the rewards of substantial pay rises, post-exam nights out and that highly-regarded actuary title make it all worthwhile.

What advice would you give to those wanting to become an actuary?

After you’ve done your many weeks of work experience, read over all the ins and outs of the profession, and come to the conclusion that you too want to explore the actuarial world then my advice to you would be:

  • At university, take on modules relating to the qualification and find out if your university has any exemption arrangements with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (I had six when I started and it was a great feeling knowing I had knocked a year off the qualifying time).
  • Apply to complete an internship – the best way to get an idea of the job and your foot in the door.
  • Apply for graduate jobs early – employers will offer jobs to the best people that come along first.
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