In the profiles below, three APR staff who had previously joined our CAA scheme give their thoughts on the actuarial profession, applying for roles and what it’s like to work for APR.
What is your current role?
APR is a well-respected consultancy firm within the Actuarial world. After six weeks of in-house training, I started working on a migration project. There are many stages in a migration; I was responsible for translating scripts from one programming language to another and testing that the outputs match as well as completing the supporting documentation. More recently, I’ve been working with a different team in the Reconciliation environment making sure that the scripts reconcile with up-to-date data. The fluency in the profession and shift of teams is something I have really come to value.
How did it tie in with your overall career plans?
During conversations with fellow Analysts within APR, the goals for joining were to enter the Actuarial world, gain experience and learn about the profession for a few years before tackling the exams required by the Institute and Facility of Actuaries (IFoA) to become a qualified actuary. What personally attracted me towards this path was the values and principles that the job requires and develops. A few of these include critical thinking, attention to detail and response to change, all of which are transferrable to my personal life, which I really have noticed, as well as across professions. I am working towards becoming a qualified actuary over the coming years.
Without a doubt, the single most used skill across all aspects of actuarial and finance is Excel. The power of this tool is great for data analysis and modelling as well as having many other functions.
There are other skills that I utilise during my day-to-day work including:
- Concept of Programming, this allows you to use multiple languages. However, if you have extensive knowledge of one, this should be pretty natural to you.
- Knowledge of technical requirements and regulations
- Project Management/Processes
The list of programming languages we all have available to us would be pages long and each one of these have their own pros and cons. If you do have enough time, I’d definitely recommend putting some time into learning one.
How does the school leaver programme work?
With the APR Actuarial Analyst program, you get dedicated days for studying. With APR, they offer a set amount of time roughly every 6 months which you decide when and how you use. I have enjoyed the flexibility as it has allowed me to tailor my learning experience to what I have found works for me over the years. The flexibility has allowed me to tackle my first exams with confidence.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to enter the profession?
The most important piece of advice I can give to anyone looking to enter any profession would be to make sure that you are passionate about the industry. I would encourage you to dive deeper. Research different parts of the actuarial world and find something that makes you want to continue reading. Coming back to the Actuarial profession, it will be important that you are committed to sitting exams. Read, educate yourself and get excited!
Why did you choose a job in this profession?
I always enjoyed maths at school, but more importantly I like to be challenged. Because of this, my dad suggested the actuarial profession, something I had never heard of before, but after researching I was amazed not only at how maths-based the day-to-day work was but how varied the work could be. This is because of the different sectors you could work in e.g. data, pricing, reporting.
The profession ticked everything I wanted from a career with the added benefit of being globally prestigious meaning it could take me anywhere.
University wasn’t for me, but this didn’t act as a barrier to entry in the profession. When I joined APR, the CAA Global qualification (Certified Actuarial Analyst) was available, which provided a great alternative to the university route allowing you to get a taste for the profession (and a route to full qualification if this is something you want to pursue) and apply your knowledge in day-to-day work. APR now offers the Junior Analyst Scheme, which is much the same as the CAA qualification with the added benefit of gaining a deeper insight into programming, something which is invaluable in the actuarial profession.
What attracted you to your role?
When I was searching around for actuarial apprenticeships offering the CAA qualification there were only a handful out there, but APR stood out to me.
Firstly, their website was informative and helpful, with it clearly stating my roles and responsibilities, career pathway, and study structure; also, the staff profiles gave great insight into what it’s like being an analyst at APR. When you join you will receive 6 weeks of training to bring you up to speed with the inner workings of the industry. You are not expected to know everything before starting work, which helped me with the transition from school to work. There are study coordinators who help with all your study needs and in general everyone at APR is friendly and more than happy to offer their knowledge which is why the Lunch and Learns are popular.
Being a consultancy firm, you will spend time working with various insurers on an assortment of projects. My first project was modelling support, where you determine changes that need to be made to the insurer’s models (mainly built in Excel), feeding in new inputs and analysing the outputs to determine the financial impact on the insurer. Currently I am a code migrator, which involves migrating an insurers code from one program to another whilst trying to speed up their processes along the way. This work has at times been complex and not something I thought I would be involved in so early in my career. I have gained great insight across the industry and departments within insurance firms so the knowledge and experience you can gain at APR is second to none.
Lastly, APR pride themselves in doing what is right. This is seen with the countless charity initiatives at APR such as the annual Charity Day, the Give as You Earn scheme or the sponsorship activities. Extensive work has also been carried out regarding sustainability, tackling climate change, wellbeing and Diversity & Inclusion. APR is much more than just an actuarial consultancy firm, you can get involved in much more than standard actuarial work which is exciting and makes you a more well-rounded individual, allowing you to be the best professional.
What skills are useful in this profession?
The work actuaries can get involved in is so diverse, hence there are a variety of transferable skills which are great for an actuarial career, but the main skills are as follows:
Willingness to learn:
Firstly, many actuarial programs are created using code to make processes more streamlined and quicker. If, like me, you didn’t gain any coding experience at school, don’t worry APR offer extensive training in a variety of coding languages and once you’ve learnt a few it’s relatively easy to apply the same principles to other programs. I’m enjoying my current code migration project despite struggling to get to grips with coding when I first joined APR; you just need a willingness to learn, and you’ll be fine. Also, the actuarial profession is very technical, and it can seem daunting at first, but it is important to accept you won’t know everything and people don’t expect you to, but a willingness to try and understand is greatly appreciated and will lead to a fulfilling career.
Being an actuary can be complex at times meaning you need to keep others informed how your work will impact them. This could be communicating a model change or presenting financial implications to a chief actuary and senior stakeholders in a business. Both are equally as important so you must make sure you can clearly explain your work and findings in both written and verbal form whilst thinking about your audience and how complex your explanation should be.
What influenced your career choice?
I’ve been interested in maths for as long as I can remember. For me, working long and hard on a problem and then finally being able to solve it is a very rewarding experience.
I knew that when I finished my A-Levels I didn’t want to go to university. This led me to look at other options, which is when I found out about the actuarial profession and the (relatively!) new Certified Actuarial Analyst qualification that meant that you didn’t have to go to university any more to get into it.
How have you found APR?
APR provides actuarial and technical project support to clients across a wide range of different areas of actuarial work. These clients are typically insurance companies that are currently undertaking projects that need additional actuarial / technical capacity or expertise – a simple example might be building models to help them assess the financial and other risks they are exposed to.
I enjoy being able to make a tangible positive impact for clients on these projects, and since starting as an analyst at APR I’ve had lots of opportunity to do so, while learning from a wide range of highly experienced colleagues. The fact that the company is relatively small (but rapidly growing!), makes it easier for your efforts to be seen and appreciated; and there’s a high level of trust that is given to each of the employees.
Another big part of working at APR is developing and improving your skills, whether that be in the form of the excellent training provided “in-house”, or learning on the job and gaining valuable experience in the large variety of work that you encounter.
What do you do day to day?
Most of my time is spent working for clients on their various different projects. This typically means spending time at client offices, working with their teams and making a real contribution to solving their problems. While on project at a client, an average day will typically involve me building / testing / adjusting models (normally using Excel), working with managers and colleagues to make sure the project is progressing and that everyone’s updated, and reporting / solving issues that I uncover when using the models.
Outside of client work, there’s a whole range of things to get involved with back in-house, to help grow APR’s business. For me, this has included working on supporting and improving the recruitment process and developing new training material.
What about the study?
Being an actuarial analyst at APR I am being supported to gain the CAA qualification. This support includes providing material for the exams, study days that can be used to work through the material and using the network of staff to get advice and help where needed.
I plan to qualify as a CAA and then potentially look at continuing with studying, with the ultimate aim of becoming a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.
Any other suggestions?
Problem solving is a must, as well as good communication, so you can work effectively within your team and report clearly to managers and others involved in the project. A background in programming is very useful, but not absolutely critical as you’ll get plenty of training early on.
Beyond this, make sure you take every opportunity that comes your way, nobody is going to do it for you!