APR Graduate Profiles
Why did I choose APR?
I applied to APR mainly because of the high quality of their actuarial training. In the first couple of months after starting, graduates receive excellent training in the skills they need to be successful on client projects, and this continues throughout your time at APR.
Another benefit is the variety of experience gained and how quickly after starting that graduates are able to make an impact on projects, and contribute to the business.
What has my client work involved?
Since starting at APR I’ve worked on client projects across the life and general insurance sectors, in companies based in London and Birmingham. The work I’ve been doing so far has included a data quality improvement project, and supporting an actuarial team as they embark on a key regulatory reporting project. It’s been a great opportunity to work in different areas and gain more experience than I would have had in my first year at most other companies.
What about studying while working?
Despite thinking I was finished with exams after university, studying for the actuarial exams has been relatively enjoyable. APR has a good structure for study days, so studying fits into the working week and doesn’t impact too much on your spare time.
What was the application process like?
Applying for APR was very straightforward. After sending in a CV, there was a short online test and telephone interview, followed by a couple of hours at the APR office (with a presentation, interview and written test). The process felt quite personalised and streamlined, focusing on the areas that really mattered.
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 led me to an actuarial career?
I joined APR in autumn 2016, having spent two years following my graduation working as a maths teacher. Coming from a mathematical background, the actuarial profession was always a career I’d considered. Applying theory from my degree in a financial context appealed to me, coupled with the opportunity for further development by becoming a qualified actuary.
How did I find the application process?
The process was refreshingly quick and easy. I sent in my CV and a cover letter, and was invited to complete an online numerical test. Following this was a telephone interview with a partner of the company, and finally an assessment centre. Compared to other recruitment routes I’d experienced, the entire process was genuinely enjoyable and confirmed to me that APR was where I wanted to launch my actuarial career.
What makes APR different from other companies?
The two things that stand out for me at APR are the quality of training and the variety of work available. There is a real focus on personal development and through APR’s vast technical library, their graduates quickly become proficient in the skills our clients most require. This comprises of technical training courses including VBA, SQL and Excel, as well as industry knowledge modules.
The unique nature of APR’s graduate programme, where we complete short-term project placements at clients across the UK, has allowed me to get involved with a broad range of work since I joined. I began my first client project within a month of joining the company, analysing reserving data for a bulk annuity provider.
Since then, in addition to spending time at APR offices developing my technical skills, I have worked on three further client projects: one supporting a systems migration project, developing a retirement company’s actuarial projection platform; another working within the finance reporting team at an insurance company, supporting a range of reporting, model development and testing functions; and finally, I’ve just started on a project for a reinsurer in Paris, working on a valuation system migration. I doubt I’d have been able to gain such early exposure to different aspects of actuarial projects in a more conventional company.
What attracted me to APR?
I applied to APR having finished a Masters in Physics. Although not set on a particular career, I knew I wanted it to be something numerical, technical, and with the potential for good progression – actuarial work fitted the bill.
APR stood out because of its focus on training. As someone with zero experience in insurance, I was attracted by the promise of a firm which takes on bright graduates (including me, apparently!), and teaches them all they need to know to be fully fledged actuarial professionals.
This impression stuck throughout the refreshingly short application process, involving a couple of interesting online tests and interviews, focusing on applicants’ problem-solving / communication skills rather than deep actuarial knowledge (though be warned – don’t go in entirely unprepared!).
Working at APR
What sets APR apart from other employers is the variety of work and early responsibility. Having joined less than two years ago, I’ve already worked on three client placements, each presenting different technical challenges, and have spent time as the sole APR representative on each. The first consisted of data analysis at an investment research firm, providing a great initial learning platform. I then moved into a small pension buyout firm, followed by a placement in the insurance division of a large bank. Both of these placements involved new, exciting business development work, and spanned the areas of code testing, code development, and data migration.
Aside from client work, I have undertaken extensive in-house training in topics ranging from software to industry-specific knowledge. APR invests a lot of time developing graduates, and the dedicated training days serve as both an excellent opportunity to learn useful skills, and a break from day-to-day work. I’ve also created new training material based on my experience, and have really appreciated the chance to contribute to the development of APR’s resources.
Fast track development
At APR, I’ve gained far broader exposure than I would have in a more traditional actuarial role. Working on a range of projects leads you not only to develop strong technical knowledge, but also to experience the varying styles of work in both large and small companies – I’d say that working with new people is the part of my job I enjoy most. It’s also arguably the biggest challenge, and I’ve found that communication and organisation skills are just as important as technical skills when it comes to project work.
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 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.