How did you get your job at PwC?
I completed the Teach First programme between 2008 and 2010 and continued to teach Maths in East London for four years after. Teach First share opportunities with people who have completed the scheme that they think might be of interest and for companies with which they have links. Even though I was enjoying teaching, I was keen to try something different that contained a mathematical element and so applied for a role within pensions with PwC.
What was the application process like?
Typically this involves an initial application, an assessment centre, numerical and verbal reasoning tests and a partner interview. My advice would be to show you understand what an actuary does in your initial application and make it relevant to the industry to which you’re applying (pensions, insurance, etc.). Do practice tests ahead of the numerical and verbal reasoning tests. In your interview make sure that you demonstrate that you meet each of PwC’s core attributes, which can be found on their careers website.
Why did you choose a job in this sector?
I was keen to try a profession that had a mathematical element and that would also provide opportunities for working in different industries in the future. Actuaries work across the private and public sectors and at PwC there are many opportunities to work abroad.
What are your main duties?
We mainly provide corporate pensions advice and audit support, but also do some work on the trustee side. As a new graduate, you’re given a portfolio of different client teams but also assigned roles as work comes through the pipeline. You get exposure early on to valuing pension schemes and performing actuarial calculations. There are also opportunities to prepare pitches, work on deals and learn about different corporate strategies such as asset backed contributions, member options and buy-out/buy-in.
What are the most stressful parts of the job?
A lot of the work is project based. This means that at times you can be very quiet and at times you can be very busy. Balancing the projects you’re working on and prioritising your time are key, as well as managing the expectations of your managers. Balancing work with study also poses a challenge as there’s a lot of content to learn from the exams, and you typically have to study more during the week than just your one study day.
What skills are useful in this profession?
You must be mathematical. While a maths degree is not necessary, maths A level certainly is and if it has been a while since you’ve studied maths it would be worth brushing up on these skills. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries provides a mathematical skills audit and support materials that you can complete ahead of starting your role. Commercial and financial awareness are important, as well as the ability to work in teams. You must also be realistic about how much you can do; your managers would rather you managed expectations than say yes to everything and do a poor job or miss a deadline.
Is it a 9-5 job?
Working hours are generally 9.30am to 5.30pm with an hour for lunch. There are times where the team gets busy and it’s necessary to come in earlier and stay later. These can be the most interesting times as it probably means that you’re working on something unusual or as part of a large team on an interesting client.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
It’s not a job that a lot of people have heard of or are aware of. Try and speak to someone who’s going through the training or has recently qualified as an actuary to get an idea of what they do. The public and private sectors both bring their own advantages and disadvantages, but it’s not uncommon to move roles when part-qualified or move within organisations. Internships are an excellent way of finding out whether you’re suited to a role and often lead to an offer of a graduate position once you’ve finished university.