• Role: Financial Reporting Actuary
  • Location: Bristol
  • University: Heriot-Watt
  • Degree: BSc Actuarial Sciences
  • Organisation: Friends Life

Rebecca Brown

I graduated from university in June 2010 and started working at AXA in September 2010. AXA merged with Friends Provident shortly afterwards and became Friends Life. Joining the company during a period of change was a great experience as a student. I was able to get involved in merging lots of processes and hence build a very good understanding of how things worked.

I qualified in September 2013, three years after I started and this is in part thanks to the Friends Life study scheme, which offers comprehensive support from the day you join. I’ve recently had the opportunity to work in our London office on a secondment to help support our Group Reporting team. This is just one of many examples of the importance that Friends Life puts on developing its people.

How did you get your job at Friends Life?

I applied to Friends Life along with a number of other actuarial firms during my fourth year at university. The initial application involved answering a number of competency based questions via an application form. After that, there were online maths and literacy tests and a telephone interview which expanded on the application questions.

The final stage was an assessment centre. During the assessment centre there is an interview, an analysis presentation, a group exercise focusing on verbal communication and team work, and a written communication exercise.

The assessment centre itself wasn’t as daunting a day as I’d anticipated. The staff were all very friendly and were quick to put us all at ease. There is a lot to get through on the day but there are plenty of breaks. On the day, some of the existing actuarial students took us on a tour of the office and talked through what we’d be doing if we were successful in getting a job. This made the whole process feel a lot more real!

What are your main duties/roles?

I work in the Actuarial Reporting team which produces the quarterly reported Market Consistent Embedded Value (MCEV) results for the company. Each quarter I take responsibility for certain parts of this process, such as analysing the movement in required capital. I also work closely with the accounting and tax teams to ensure consistent reporting across the different metrics.

Shortly before qualifying I became a line manager and hence chunks of my time are now spent managing the workload and development needs of other members of the team.

What are the most stressful parts of the job?

I wouldn’t say that the stressful aspects of the job were any different to other professions, but you have to balance these stresses with those of fitting in enough study to pass the exams. This is what sets the actuarial profession apart from the others. You need good time management and the ability to say no to certain things as exams draw closer.

The stressful aspects of my current role are centred around meeting reporting deadlines. Work has to be produced of a high quality within a restricted timeframe which can mean working longer hours over certain periods. I work with lots of other teams within financial reporting so my work is dependent on others, which can also be quite stressful. However, the close relationships help to build an understanding of how all of the reporting processes fit together.

What is a typical day like?

The best laid plans…

Generally I will have a to-do list made up from the day before which includes progressing projects/completing tasks for valuations. However, the priorities can change quickly in my role as new work comes in or queries come from other departments. This makes the work interesting and exciting, if a little frustrating at times.

As I’ve progressed in the company, I’ve begun to manage others. This comes with a lot of additional work, including a number of meetings each week which focus on my management responsibilities.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

In the future I’d like to be a department manager. I enjoy the planning and people management side of my role and I would like to get to the stage of knowing enough technically to make a sensible decision without needing to know every detail.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?

Don’t underestimate the importance of building up relevant skills. Employers look for a lot more than a 2:1 when selecting candidates for an assessment centre. Take any opportunity you can to build up experiences within teams and leading them. Good examples of this are university societies, weekend/evening jobs and voluntary roles such as coaching a local sports team.

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