APR Graduate Profiles
Why did I choose APR?
I joined the team at APR in autumn 2014 having previously spent three years working as a risk analyst at a brokerage firm. Being a maths graduate, an actuarial career had always been something I’d considered – a challenging and well-respected role appealing to my interests in mathematics and finance. While many actuarial employers came across as quite similar to me, APR stood out as having something different to offer.
I was attracted by APR’s straightforward application process, by the interviews being relaxed and the assessment tests much more engaging than others I have come across. The positive feelings I got from my interviews have come good – the people at APR are all friendly and very supportive, and the work is wide-ranging and interesting. Perhaps most importantly for me, though, I feel like a valued part of the business.
What is the work like?
The nature of the work, involving short-term project placements at clients around the UK (and even beyond), genuinely offers the opportunity to experience a variety of different roles, with real responsibility and at different companies. To illustrate this, so far I have worked at a data analytics consultancy on a benchmarking project analysing workplace pensions, at a global general insurer providing support within the group reserving function, assisting with the development of a new quotation system at a Dublin life office, helping a bulk annuity provider on a large data project and most recently helping a Lloyds syndicate automate it’s finance processes.
As well as full support through the actuarial exams, APR provides first-class technical training through its in-house material, aimed at making me more valuable when working on client projects. The training focuses on developing coding and modelling skills, a key area for APR, and applying them to examples of everyday actuarial work. I’m now very confident using advanced functionality in Excel, VBA, and Access, which has proved exceptionally useful.
As long as you’re happy with the potential need to travel for some client projects, I couldn’t recommend APR more highly.
What does my role involve?
Although I work for APR I am mostly based at clients’ offices working on projects. Most of our clients are insurance companies and we work with their in-house teams to offer additional expertise and experience. Our job as actuaries is to analyse financial risks so that insurers can set premium rates, work out how much money to reserve for claims and decide what assets to invest in. We try to estimate the future so that the insurer remains solvent and policyholders are protected.
When I started looking for jobs, I knew I wanted to be an actuary but wasn’t sure what industry sector to go for (actuaries can also work in pensions and investment, amongst others); so I applied for lots of graduate schemes. I’m really pleased to have ended up at APR – being at a smaller company means I get opportunities and support that are tailored to my development. My consultancy-type role means the projects are interesting and I can gain experience in a range of areas.
My role is pretty technical and challenging, and that’s probably my favourite thing about it. I have really enjoyed using the maths and statistics that I learned during my degree and applying it to solving real-life problems. I’m fortunate that my job allows me to work on a project for a client but then move on to something new elsewhere when I have finished, so I get a lot of variety – and often the one-off projects are the most interesting work too. Everyone I have met in the profession is really supportive and encouraging, so I’m able to learn loads from my colleagues.
Tips for embarking on an actuarial career
There are a lot of exams to take in the early years; it typically takes between 3 and 5 years to qualify as an actuary and the exams are tough. You will be supported by your employer and colleagues but make sure you are committed.
Demonstrate your commitment to potential employers by understanding what the job involves. There’s really no excuse for not doing your homework and asking friends, family, your career advisor or using the internet to research the job you want.
What does the job at APR involve?
My job is about providing an actuarial service to a range of clients in the insurance industry – using a technical background to aid them in producing financial models which are accurate and concise, with the aim of increasing the efficiency of their operation.
I love the level of responsibility it is possible to hold so early on in my career – being on a client site, with a technical skillset, provides the opportunity to build something creative and leave something of value behind. I get to work with a diverse range of people, and I enjoy the idea of getting to learn something new so often.
Why did I choose APR?
I had taken an actuarial science module at university, because my Dad told me it would be “useful” – as it turned out, “enjoyable” was also on the table, and I knew then that this was a career path I at least wanted to try out.
I came across APR almost by accident, just browsing through the directories of employers in the actuarial sector. The application process was really interesting, and very unlike anything else I had done before. There was an online test designed to stretch the mind, a phone interview with the more “traditional” competency questions, and then an assessment centre where, again, I was given some very challenging questions on a written paper. Eventually I got the call, and have never had cause to regret taking it!
What advice would I give?
Working in the profession requires time management, because you are always balancing exams with the working day, which is usually a new experience to most people out of university. It’s important to make that effort to plan and schedule ahead. At work, never stop asking for feedback and asking questions – it gives you the chance to improve, and it shows people you want to.
What’s it like working at APR?
APR is very different from most of the other companies I applied to. We provide interim actuarial support to companies (mostly insurers). As an employee of APR, that means working on-site at our clients’ offices, which might well involve being away from your London or Edinburgh base during the week. In such cases, the company is keen to accommodate your travel and accommodation preferences.
APR’s students have a high pass rate in the actuarial exams and this fosters a culture of friendly competition in which we’re all keen to progress quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to tick all the CT exams off the list in three sittings.
My career so far
I’ve worked on five client projects since I started here, and I’ve spent a couple of months in-house as well. Over that period I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of work, and I feel I’ve accrued experience much quicker than I would have done in other actuarial companies.
I’ve worked in Edinburgh, Dublin, Southampton and now Surrey. My first two projects focused on building data management applications in VB/VBA; my project in Southampton was focused on developing product illustration models; and my most recent project has me involved in modelling of lifetime mortgages. This project has been by far the most challenging from a technical standpoint – I have to use much of the theory that I picked up studying for the CT8 exam. I will be bringing my knowledge and experience in this area back to APR, to the benefit of both us and our clients.
What are the most important skills to have?
In terms of “hard” skills, you’ll mostly pick up the ones you need studying for the actuarial exams – don’t underestimate how much of it can become relevant in work. This is perhaps more applicable to APR than most, as you never know what you’ll have to use in your job. Besides the actuarial stuff, Excel and coding skills (particularly VBA) go a very long way to impressing employers and clients if you have a solid grasp of the basics – APR invests a lot of time training graduates in these skills from the off.
The so called “soft skills” are just as important day-to-day. Being able to communicate clearly, prioritising tasks, having commercial awareness to identify opportunities to grow the wider business, and just generally being able to get things done to a high standard in a timely fashion are all invaluable.