I joined LCP after graduating in 2004, qualified as an actuary in 2008 and was promoted to partner in 2012. I have been fortunate that my firm has grown considerably in the 11 years since I joined, and that has given me lots of opportunities to do interesting work and develop my career.
I mainly help people manage their defined benefit pension schemes. Sometimes that means I’m advising the company that sponsors the pension scheme, and sometimes my client is the board of trustees that has been appointed to look after members’ interests.
Why did you choose a career in the industry?
I really enjoyed studying maths, and I wanted to find a job where I could make the most of my degree. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I went to the careers service at university and found a list of the careers that maths graduates chose.
As well as the prospect of a highly regarded qualification and the rewards that go with it, a career as a consulting actuary seemed to me to strike the right balance between:
- using the technical and critical thinking skills I had developed; and
- getting out and interacting with people.
I definitely found the balance I was looking for, and it hasn’t been static. Over time, my role has evolved from a mainly technical focus to include more communication and strategic thinking. It’s important initially to develop the knowledge and experience that go into making you an expert in your field, but later in your career those technical skills are not what set you apart from your colleagues and competitors. Our clients are looking for consultants that can help them make decisions and solve problems, which makes communication the key.
What is a typical day like for you?
At a high level, the work I do typically involves valuing and managing pension commitments and risks. That might be at the level of an individual member who wants to transfer their pension from one scheme to another, or a multibillion pound scheme looking to secure all their members’ benefits with an insurance contract.
Day to day, that means meeting with my clients, talking to them on the phone and writing our advice. I might be working alongside other professionals, including lawyers, administrators and investment managers, as well as a team of actuaries. Juggling the demands of lots of different clients and giving each one the best possible advice is what makes a successful consultant.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My clients come from all walks of life. I could be advising a chief executive, a union representative or a pensioner – or even all three at the same time. Finding a way to explain something technical and helping my clients make difficult decisions gives me the most satisfaction.
What are the current challenges the industry faces?
The biggest challenge in the pensions industry is that policymakers need to take a long-term view and build consensus to help encourage workers and their employers to save adequately for their retirement. That long-termism is not very compatible with the 24-hour news cycle that drives modern politics.
There has been a tendency to fiddle endlessly with the legal framework for pensions to the point that it is now incredibly complex and people have lost faith in the pensions system. As a profession, actuaries have an obligation to act in the public interest. For me, that means we have an important role to play in lobbying government to keep the pensions system workable, as well as helping our clients to deal with the existing complexity.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Do your research on the different kinds of jobs that actuaries do, and think about what suits you best. There might not be a great deal of difference in the early years of your career, when the focus is on learning the technical skills you need and passing exams. But looking a few years down the track, the day to day work of a consulting actuary is very different to an actuary pricing car insurance, for example.
Find a company that will give you the chance to develop. Joining a firm that’s growing means there will be more opportunities for interesting work and promotion than one where you have to wait for somebody to leave or retire.
Make sure you’re well prepared for interviews. Studying for the actuarial exams whilst working is a significant commitment, so you need to show you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Start right away, and don’t stop! Try to talk to someone who is studying for the actuarial exams and ask them what it’s really like. Once you start work, your colleagues are also your teachers. I have learned a great deal throughout my career by picking the brains of the people around me. The same goes for my clients: it’s not rocket science, but the best way of finding out what’s important to people is to ask them.