Why did you choose an actuarial career?
I decided to be an actuary when I was 12. My mum worked in payroll and one day I fished out a pensions magazine from her briefcase and looked at the jobs at the back, actuaries earned the most. I went to the library, to found out about the Institute of Actuaries and wrote a letter to find out more. They sent me information about being an actuary and universities that offered actuarial courses.
It seemed that I liked all the things required to be an actuary, so I thought ‘why not?’. As I moved through GCSEs, A Levels and my degree, I kept my eyes open for other avenues that might appeal more, but I always enjoyed actuarial work, so kept on going and here I am as a Scheme Actuary a couple of decades later.
What was your first job?
My first actuarial job was as a summer intern with AXA Equity & Law. After university I had a couple of spells in life insurance before moving into pensions consulting with Mercer (previously William M Mercer).
What skills have you gained since working?
You gain a wealth of technical, financial, economic and regulatory knowledge as the bedrock of being a practicing professional, but once you get properly stuck into your career these skills are a given and it’s your commercial skills that really matter.
Of the broader skill set necessary as a partner in a consulting business, communication is perhaps the most important – written and oral.
The other skills that I rely on are: leadership, business strategy, commercial negotiation, networking and working as part of a team.
How is your work different to when you first started as a trainee?
When you start, your main focus is on learning how the actuarial mathematics and relevant regulations work. After qualification, when you really understand how the sums work, you stop doing the sums yourself and your team do them for you. My current role as a lead advisor with a support team is more strategic, thinking about what analysis is needed and how to present it to our clients. In a typical week my time is split equally between:
- Developing advice and services.
- Delivering advice to clients.
- Running our business.
Where do you work now and what does the job involve?
I’m a partner at Hymans Robertson, an independent consultancy specialising in pensions,investment and employee benefits. My job as a Scheme Actuary is leading client relationships and advising trustees and companies on their pension arrangements.
This role means providing strategic direction, to bring clarity to financial measurement of a pension scheme and ensuring the scheme runs properly. In addition to my client appointments, I have responsibilities within our firm for business development, marketing and developing new services for our clients.
What does the future hold for you?
As a leader in our business, my role is to move our firm forward, driving the development of new services in our current areas of operation and exploring new fields which we could move into.
The pensions industry faces substantial changes in the coming decades and my role is to make sure that my clients and our business are positioned to thrive through the challenges and opportunities these changes will bring.