Whenever someone asks you that dreaded question, “What do you want to do when you finish school?”, the usual careers come to mind: nurse; teacher; lawyer. Now, when people ask what I do and I tell them “I’m a pensions administrator” all the responses tend to be along the lines of ‘That must be so boring’. They couldn’t be further from the truth! Although before I began an apprenticeship in the pension’s world, I probably would have agreed.
The apprenticeship scheme originally attracted my attention due to the nature of the role itself. Not only would I gain a Level 2 Diploma in Business Administration, I would get to work within a unique business model, and across two very diverse roles. The programme involved two placements; one working within the Enquiry Centre and halfway through the 18 month programme, moving to work as a Pensions Administrator, calculating and processing Defined Benefit scheme retirement quotes for those reaching retirement age.
The role within the enquiry centre involved providing information on pensions to clients and members of Defined Benefits schemes. This could be via inbound telephone calls, letters and emails. It also involved going through processes such as pension claims, understanding often complex retirement cases and learning how benefits are calculated for different types of schemes.
This was a fantastic opportunity for me. I learned so many new skills, including increased customer service skills, written and verbal communication and time management skills. Moving into the Pensions Administrator role involved a lot more intense and focused knowledge on Defined Benefits schemes (in particular UK pension legislation, Defined Benefits calculations and some UK Tax Legislation). Many of the skills I had learned throughout my time working in the Enquiry Centre transferred really well into this area of the business.
I think the biggest benefit of the initial placement was that it gave me the confidence I needed to ask questions. It left me wanting to learn more and increase my knowledge further. This placement helped me greatly with developing my personal organisational skills and increased problem solving skills.
The apprenticeship programme involved a number of assignments that covered a variety of topics, such as communications in a business environment, the principles of business document production and also information management. The apprenticeship units were assessed in a number of different ways. Most of the time they were written reports and essays, but sometimes it could be a verbal interview with the training provider (the only downside to this was listening to it back – everyone hates the sound of their own voice!).
There were so many skills the assignments taught me, such as development of working relationships, keeping to deadlines (key in the financial sector) and keeping myself organised. I suppose the main challenge I faced during the course of the apprenticeship was finding the time to complete all the work on time alongside working full-time. This was by no means due to the workload of either, but down to my desire to do well at both and excel. This proved to pay off as I completed the apprenticeship four months early and was offered a permanent position within the company as a Pensions Administrator. This gave me the motivation to take on further study outside of my new role and I’ve since completed a professional ualification – CIPD Foundation Certificate.
My main piece of advice for people who want to join the financial industry and in particular the pensions sector would be: have fun. You can always find a way to make the job ntertaining. For me, that was to challenge myself and achieve the best I could. As the industry is growing, you are bound to see a younger and more diverse workforce than you would expect, and there’s always healthy competition between me and my teammates which helps keep the job refreshing and interesting.