Actuaries use their business and maths skills to measure the financial risks caused by real life events and business decisions.
Actuaries use research and stats to predict how likely it is that an event will happen, for example, that houses near a river will flood, that someone will have an accident on a construction site or that a business will lose money.
They then use these risks to decide what rates people should pay for insurance, how much is needed to cover a pension fund, or to work out a plan for investing money.
We caught up Anand, a graduate trainee, to find out more about what it takes to become an actuary.
Name: Anand Bhimjiyani
Company: Chartis Europe Ltd
Industry: Insurance - Actuary
What is your job: Graduate Programme, Professional Associate
How long have you worked here: 3 months
Degree Subject: Maths
A-Levels: Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry
Interests: Sport, Art
Is this your very first job?
No, but my first job was in the same industry as a gap year sandwich placement student (a year working in a particular job / industry as part of your degree).
What made you want to do your current job?
I wanted to make good use of my maths skills and analytical mind. It is a challenging profession, which can bring out the best in me intellectually. The insurance industry is also full of variety as there are many types of insurance, so there is a huge scope for learning.
For more information on how to become an actuary or careers in insurance and pensions, check out our insurance career zone.
How did you get there?
For this job I had to submit a CV, cover letter and questionnaire. I then sat maths and verbal reasoning tests online, followed by interviews and an assessment day (more interviews, group exercises, and tests!). I think that gaining relevant work experience prior to applying for grad roles really helped prepare me for interviews and boosted my career prospects too.
What things did you wish you’d known before starting your career?
I did a placement in a life insurance company during university to help me decide whether this was the career path for me. However, I didn’t realise how different the work is in a general insurance company. Actuarial roles vary a lot depending on what kind of insurance company you work for (the main ones are life, general and pensions).
Why did you choose this organisation?
They are a worldwide firm that write a huge variety of insurance products, so I thought there would be lots of opportunities to learn new things and gain a wide range of experience. The worldwide aspect also means more travel opportunities, which is exciting!
What is a typical day at work like?
At the moment I am performing stress tests to model a number of “what if” scenarios (these can sometimes be worst case scenarios, e.g 'what if there is another recession or a major flood and half of our clients need to make a big insurance claim at once...). From that I can work out what financial position a section of the business would be in, i.e whether it would still be in a healthy position to pay out the claims it owes to policyholders if the worst happened.
What’s the best thing about your job?
It always makes me think. A lot of the work I am seeing is new and there is usually some logical way to find the solution to a problem, which is not always easy. When my problem-solving hat is on and I manage to find the solutions, I find that really satisfying.
What’s the most challenging thing about your job?
To qualify as an actuary you need to study for and pass a number of exams. I haven’t experienced this yet, but I know there will be periods over the next few years where I will have to put a lot of hours into studying for these exams whilst working. So I will have to sacrifice some evenings and weekends depending on how efficient my days given off to study go! But if you are willing to put in the work, it is very rewarding.
For more GCSE and A-Level exam revision study advice, check out the Study section of our site.
What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
The qualifying process is very tough, you need to be fully dedicated to taking time out to study and take exams.
You need to have a good idea of how an insurance company works (e.g. how they make money, the various departments, what industry issues can affect them), but you are not expected to know too much about what actuaries do before you start, as it is fairly specialist.
Key skills include numbers, problem solving, team work, attention to detail, good communication, and dedication to study - as companies will usually sponsor you to take your exams.
Who inspires you?
MS Dhoni - A truly inspirational cricketer (cricket is my favourite sport), a terrific role model and motivator. Being captain for India, he definitely knows how to deal with pressure and always keeps a cool, calm head!
Find out more about careers in insurance in our Insurance & Pensions career zone.