• Role: Graduate Actuarial Analyst
  • Location: Chertsey
  • University: York
  • Degree: PhD Physics
  • Organisation: FIS

David Chisnall

I think 2007/2008 was a watershed year for a lot of people. Northern Rock and Lehmans both sparked my interest in learning about economics (a subject I was wholly ignorant about at the time). The more I read, the more interested I became.

When I graduated with my PhD in physics, I decided that I would use my analytical skills to solve some real-world problems. I decided to study for the actuarial exams, as I had missed the slightly more ‘formalised’ world of undergraduate study. Having had some experience programming during both my undergraduate degree and my PhD, a software company seemed the natural environment for me to continue my professional development.

Who are SunGard?

My manager once called SunGard ’The largest software company you’ve never heard of’. SunGard provides software across a spectrum of financial institutions, including insurance companies. Our insurance software suite is used by nine of the top ten US life insurers and all of the top ten UK life insurers. You can find our software being used in offices in almost one third of all the world’s countries.

Why did you decide to join SunGard?

SunGard stood out from the other companies I interviewed for immediately. I took a tour around the office when I came for an interview, and the positivity in the office was tangible. SunGard is also a major player in the insurance industry. By supporting our clients, everyone in the team has the opportunity to liaise with many of the world’s largest insurance and reinsurance companies. In addition to that exposure, the opportunity to further develop my computational skills was a prospect I couldn’t resist!

What is your role?

In broad strokes, my job is a mixture of development and maintenance. My team effectively sits between two groups: the computational developers, who are professional coders, and the clients and business managers, who steer the development. Our team develops the economic and mathematical ideas into practical solutions, which can then be implemented in software.

We’ve got some big projects in the pipeline which will add more functionality to our software, and they’re a great mix of some hard maths, and a little bit of computer science. When not working on development, I spend time on third line client support, helping our customers work around any problems they’re experiencing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy the variety of work. I’d never worked with the programming and scripting languages VBA or PowerShell before joining SunGard, and you really do get the opportunity to learn new skills and work on real problems. It’s incredibly satisfying to know that the product is used by real people in the industry. Aside from that, having a great team around you who are all experts in their field really makes a difference!

Are you all computational gurus?

Perhaps contrary to popular belief – you DON’T need to be a computational genius to be able to work for a software company! Obviously, you DO need to be comfortable with using computers. I would say the most important aspect is self-confidence; the fear of ’breaking the computer‘ can sometimes override the better ’maybe this will work‘, or ’Let’s see what this does‘ mentality. There is a lot of self-discovery in this role, and that is something which has always been encouraged.

What transferable skills are available?

As well as the phenomenally transferable actuarial qualifications which you can obtain, working for a software company gives you access to a whole toolbox of skills which you can sharpen. Firstly, being intimately acquainted with the iWorks software suite (which is used very widely in the industry) is a huge bonus. In addition, I’ve been able to gain experience working with VBA via Excel, C#, and PowerShell.

We also have a centralised learning facility, ‘SunGard University’. This lists available courses and webinars, which can be tailored to the direction of your career progression.

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