• Role: Trainee Investment Analyst
  • University: Durham
  • Degree: BSc Mathematics
  • Organisation: Barnett Waddingham

Rebecca Harvey

Problem solving has always been something I’ve enjoyed and I was attracted to investment consultancy because I found at university that it was the real-life application of maths and figuring out solutions that I engaged with the most. Additionally, I wanted to work in an industry where there was the chance to meet the people who my work would be helping, as I think that’s a great motivator to really excel. It was the mix of being able to develop technical skills and still work face to face with clients that made the investment consultant role so appealing.

What was the application process like?

The first thing I noticed was that it really wasn’t as daunting as I had expected it to be. After the standard online application was a phone interview, aimed at asking you to explain various situations in which you have demonstrated the certain skills. The final stage of the process was the assessment day, which consisted of numerical and verbal reasoning tests, an interview, case study, presentation and a group activity. It might sound like a lot, but the day was very relaxed and the interviewers seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. My top piece of advice would be to relax and be yourself since most of the people at the interview will have similar academic qualifications; this is what will really make you stand out. We were able to prepare for the case study in advance, so I would recommend doing a bit of research on the topic so you have plenty of ideas to talk about. The presentation was focused on explaining a complex topic of your choice and the group activity focused mainly on being able to reason your ideas and communicate effectively. The interview was a great chance to focus on what qualities you could bring to the role.

What were your main duties?

From my first day in the office we were dealing with client work, which was really exciting. We started off by working on valuation reports for clients and then moved on to helping draft pieces of strategy advice and monitoring reports. I was exposed to a wide range of work, such as calculating the performance of funds and assessing what the performance levels can be attributed to. We were also assigned to clients very quickly, meaning that we could build up client-specific knowledge and improve the quality of our work. We also had extensive training throughout the first month, covering topics from the very basics of pensions, through to regulations, mortality and asset classes. I found these sessions to be particularly useful as I hadn’t studied anything pension-specific at university.

What skills are useful in this profession?

As soon as you start training as a consultant you realise very quickly that being able to explain your ideas and your processes is key to excelling. Often colleagues will ask you why you chose to go about a piece of work or some calculations in the way that you did, and if you can articulate your decisions well, it often leads to better feedback and improvement. You also need to be able to explain the same points clearly and concisely (with no jargon) so that clients can also understand the theory behind the advice you are providing. Additionally, having the confidence to trial your own solutions to the problems you face is key. Whether the problem is deciding on how a Scheme’s investment approach can be altered to reach their funding target or figuring out how a funding projection spreadsheet works, we use problem solving skills in almost every piece of work we carry out.

Do you have any advice for students?

Investment consulting can be really rewarding, but you have to be prepared for hard work, especially with regards to studying for the exams. So I would recommend spending some time reading about the industry to see if the job is something that would genuinely interest you. This career gives you the opportunity to see yourself grow and improve and if this is the type of thing that motivates you, then I would definitely recommend looking into consultancy. Even if you haven’t studied any actuarial or economics before, don’t let this put you off, I think it’s the skills you have and your passion that determine how much you’ll enjoy the role.

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