• Bio: In 2001, Katie graduated from Oxford with a Philosophy and Economics degree, she joined Mercer that same year. Katie continues to work with this company and has recently been promoted to Senior Associate.
  • Organisation: Mercer

Katie Low

As a philosophy student with an actuarial family background, it was anyone’s guess whether I would end up going down the actuarial path. Both my father and grandfather were actuaries so I was always aware of it as a career option.

I enjoyed maths at school, but did not want to go down a ‘pure maths’ route. Instead, I ended up at Oxford University studying Philosophy and Economics.

I joined Mercer as a Trainee Pensions Actuary in 2001, and have been with Mercer ever since.

After qualifying I spent just over a year on secondment in the San Francisco office which was an excellent opportunity, giving me experience of different ways of working and of course the adventure of living in a new place.

Why did you choose a career in the industry?

I did a summer placement as an actuarial intern in New York which I really enjoyed, but I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to follow in the family footsteps – it seemed too obvious a choice!

As a result, when I left university I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I did know that I wanted to move to London, so ended up doing a variety of temp jobs.

I wanted to work with bright, dynamic people and do something that would stretch my brain and the external, client focused element of consultancy appealed to me, as well as the intellectual rigour of the exams and work.

This led me to the realisation that an actuarial career might actually be the right for me, so I stopped trying to fight against it!

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day seems to involve very little time sitting at my desk, which makes it hard sometimes to get things done. There are meetings and conference calls about particular projects that are going on, making sure that everything is on track within the team or with any external parties that are involved.

I have a portfolio of clients, some where I act as an adviser to the company and some where the advice is to the trustees of the pension scheme. They are of different sizes, involve different personalities and face different issues so depending on which one is busy, a day can be quite varied.

I now have supervisor responsibilities and that aspect of my job is completely non-actuarial. The role takes up quite a lot of time, but on the whole I enjoy it because I like the variety it gives me.

I have also become involved in the Actuarial Profession as a volunteer and through that I have whole different set of experiences.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the people that I work with, some of whom have become good friends. I think it’s a really important element of any job that you get on with the people around you because, lets face it, you are going to have to spend a lot of your life with them.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I admit I don’t have a detailed plan or checklist of things I would like to achieve – maybe I should! The important thing for me is to feel that I am moving forward in my career in a way that keeps me challenged and interested. So far I’ve always been able to find new challenges when I have felt I needed them.

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

Be prepared for the exams to be tough, but once you are through them, there are lots of different avenues and specialisms to keep you interested and challenged, so it’s important to be open-minded about the direction you might take.

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