When I grow up I want to be a ……
To be honest, I never knew how that sentence ended. As a former ballet scholar, I expected to find myself working in the performing arts but, this was not to be! Instead, I chose to pursue my secret love of maths, and a career as an actuary seemed the perfect opportunity to put this to good use.
I was fortunate enough to be successful in my application to Standard Life as a summer intern during the penultimate year of my maths degree, and was quick to take up a job offer following graduation. I haven’t looked back since.
If you’re allergic to hard work, and find that motivation and self discipline aren’t amongst your greatest credentials, training as an actuary is definitely not for you. The path to qualification has a reputation for being hard, and for good reason.
Working and studying simultaneously can be tiring, and the work-life balance equation is very often skewed, yet at the same time, progression is certainly not without its rewards.
What can you gain from becoming an actuary?
- Receipt of a globally recognised qualification permitting entry into a prestigious and well respected profession.
- The opportunity to work with like-minded individuals.
- A well paid job and rewarding job.
The decision to embark on a traineeship should not be taken lightly. With anything up to 15 exams standing between you and qualifying, the necessary desire for further learning needs to be a genuine one.
The exam syllabus is broad and includes modules in statistics, modelling, probability and financial mathematics as well as wider disciplines such as economics, with later exams specialising into key industry areas such as life insurance.
Life as an actuary
As an actuarial trainee, alongside studying for these exams you’ll ‘live’ the role, be this within a large life office such as Standard Life or perhaps a smaller consultancy firm. Each business set up has its own merits. If public contact is more your thing, a consultancy type role affords far more client facing opportunities. You’ll develop knowledge specific to individual pension schemes and therefore be well placed to answer specific questions.
In a Standard Life office however, you’ll have access to a range of departments, each drawing on different actuarial skills such as basis assumption setting. As a full time employee, you’ll gain first-hand experience of how the skills and techniques you’re studying at home can be applied in practice.
Wherever you’re based, each day is different and brings fresh challenges, new opportunities and a constant source of stimuli. Through your on the job training you’ll soon develop and improve a range of skills. You’ll also learn to apply professional judgement, taking into account your stakeholders interests and the wider environmental context.
Ensuring the integrity of the profession
The Actuarial Profession, the chartered professional body for actuaries, offers an opportunity to further engage in this industry which impacts the lives of all of us.
“Actuaries make financial sense of the future” to my mind exemplifies the diversity of an actuarial career. A company like, Standard Life, with 6.5 million customers worldwide, aims to help its customers visualise and ‘create’ this future, and actuaries will be at the heart of making this happen.
What it’s like at Standard Life
At Standard Life, there are around 60 trainee actuaries. Trainees are given a lot of internal support and guidance throughout their training programme. We offer a buddy scheme for new starts and interns, and provide all trainees with a mentor on joining the company, be this a recently qualified actuary, or a more senior manager.
A competitive study package is offered and trainees further benefit by experiencing different departments through a rotation programme.
This enables a greater understanding of the company and broadens the experience of the trainee. Typically you may become involved in annual reporting of reserves, developing and running stochastic Moses models, or working with the Experience Analysis team on basis setting.
Standard Life, like all companies operating in the financial sector, expects a great deal from its actuarial people. There’s no shying away from this fact. In return however, Standard Life recognises and acts on the need to support its trainees through all stages of qualification and professional development.
Indeed, the fact that Standard Life’s exam pass rates and average time to qualification consistently outperform the Profession’s average, to me speaks for itself.