• Bio: Shaun joined RSA directly from university in 2008. RSA is a global general insurance company with a 300 year heritage. During his time at RSA Shaun has had a variety of roles, working across reserving, capital modelling and pricing. Shaun also administers RSA’s UK Actuarial Development Scheme which involves recruiting new interns and graduates, assisting with placement rotations and managing the budget for RSA’s study package to get trainees through the actuarial exams.
  • Organisation: RSA

Shaun Finlay

Why did you choose a career in the actuarial industry?

I studied maths at university and didn’t want to let what I’d learned in my degree go to waste, so I wanted to choose a career that would let me use my maths as much as possible. During a visit to the university careers centre, I was actually handed a copy of the Inside Careers guide to Actuaries. I had a read through the types of work that actuaries get involved and became particularly interested in the roles within general insurance, which had seemed to have a bit more of a commercial and business edge to them.

I felt I fitted the sort of candidate profile the employers were looking for, so I applied to a couple of the graduate jobs in the employer section and was offered a position on the graduate scheme at RSA.

What is a typical day like for you?

My typical day as a pricing consultant is a mixture of working on longer term pricing projects as well as more urgent pricing requests from underwriters. A lot of my time is spent working with insurance underwriters to price and win large commercial contracts, many of them for multi-national companies with a wide range of insurance needs such as commercial property, liability and motor insurance.

A lot of communication is done by phone or email but I try to sit down with the underwriters in our London office as much as possible. There are many specialist software packages that I might use to do various actuarial analyses, but I’m sure a typical day would still involve opening Microsoft Excel at some point.

What skills have you gained since working?

You obviously learn many technical and analytical skills working as an actuary but what I think has surprised me the most is the improvement in other skills people may not necessarily at first associate with actuaries. An actuary isn’t just required to be able to do the tricky technical calculations. The real challenge is to be able to communicate your findings clearly to people who don’t have the same technical background as yourself. Through a mixture of on the job experience and in-house training courses I have learned how to communicate effectively with different types of audiences. I have become much more confident in what I am speaking about, whether it is one-on-one consultations with underwriters or senior management, or presenting in front of larger audiences. The opinion of the actuaries is held in very high regard within the business.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I think what I’ve most enjoyed about my career so far as an actuary is the variety of work and projects I’ve been involved in, all within one company. Previous roles have involved:

  • Estimating the reserves the company needs to hold for claims that are still yet to fully emerge from existing policies.
  • Modelling the capital the company is required to hold to withstand future potential risks to our business, for example, catastrophes such as earthquakes, storms or floods affecting our global property portfolio.
  • Setting the price for motor insurance products. This involved reviewing our rating structures based on claims data and optimising our pricing taking into account market dynamics and competitiveness.

However, what I enjoy about my job doesn’t end within the four walls of the office; London is a big place! I have many good friends at the company who regularly like to go for drinks, meals and theatre trips, as well as go-karting and even ski holidays.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

My next role will be a secondment move into finance as capital management actuary for our group head office. The role will involve working on our regulatory submissions to the PRA as well as working on strategies to optimise our use of capital within the business, which was something I was very interested in doing from when I used to work in capital modelling. Another of my goals is to continue to develop my management experience, which would open doors to leading a larger team.

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

In the interviews, as well as establishing you have the numerical ability to succeed as an actuary, employers are focused on looking for new trainees with very strong communication skills. They are looking for candidates who can make reasoned arguments and describe the logical steps they have taken to arrive at their conclusions.
It’s well documented that the exams are very demanding, but many employers offering graduate positions will give you the support you need to get through them.

Being an actuary is a very challenging but ultimately very rewarding career. I use the word challenging in a positive sense here. If you enjoy problem-solving and have the high numerical ability required to become an actuary then this could a great career choice for you.

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