- You get well paid
- It’s a profession – with tough exams and regulations
- You have to be really, really, really good with numbers.
Fortunately Jeff Riley had an invitation from Arthur Rahn from Hymans Robertson who put him right about the profession as a whole and, at the same time, outlined Hymans Robertson’s Trainee Consultant (graduate) scheme. This took place at their smart offices at One London Wall. A meeting room set aside, with on-tap tea and biscuits. Just the right thing for a slightly damp cyclist.
Arthur started by giving me an over view of the actuarial profession in the UK
“Firstly, it’s a small but growing profession. About 23,000 members in the UK. It is an expanding profession though, with growth internationally (China and India, for example), as well as in the UK itself. The international growth is fuelled by a conscious effort on behalf of the profession to extend its international reach (The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries). In the UK it’s moving outside its traditional redoubts –insurance and pensions– into new sectors including, consulting, corporate finance, banking and enterprise risk management.”
I asked Arthur about the professional exams – I had assumed, in my ignorance, that they were really tough but, hey, it turns out that bit was true.
“Yes, completing the professional exams can take between 3 to 6 years. you can get exemptions if you have studied the subject at undergraduate or Masters level. People can find out more by visiting the IFoA website but, in brief they combine core technical exams together with a range of optional modules that are focused on different sectors. For example, on pensions and investment in the UK or enterprise risk management.”
Does this mean that your recruits have to be mainly brilliant at mathematics and numbers?
“Well you have to really enjoy working with numbers but actually the profession only specifies that you have to achieve a Grade B or above in Mathematics at ‘A’ level (or equivalent); an additional grade C or above at A level in any subject, grade C or above at English GCSE and grade C or above in two further GCSE’s in any subject. What is important to get across as well though is that is not all about the numbers. Most organisations recruiting Actuarial Trainees are also looking for people who have great communication skills. The profession needs people who are analytically strong, able to solve complicated financial problems with solid commercial and economic understanding alongside the ability to interpret and communicate complex information in a clear way to others.
As a consultant working with Hymans Roberston you will have extensive contact with our clients, attending meetings with CEO’s, Finance Directors and Directors of Human Resource functions. You will have to be able to talk through recommendations for the clients, – lay out courses of action and, certainly if you are working for Hymans Robertson, get off the fence and give an opinion about what course of action you recommend. In addition you won’t be working in a room doing calculations but you will be working in teams alongside other students, trainees, specialists and more senior actuaries.
Alongside a love of numbers, – you will need to be curious – about what is happening in the financial world, the challenges organisations and individuals face.
For example, it’s hard for me to see a programme about developments in medicine, for example, without thinking how it might impact on longevity which has implications for pensions and insurance – key parts of our business.
You will need a high level of commercial awareness. Sure, we can teach people about developments such as the government’s new Auto-Enrolment’ legislation and the impact of quantitative easing but we are looking for people who have an instinctive interest and knowledge in these kinds of areas.
We believe that our Trainee Consultants should have what I think of as ‘littoral’ or ‘backstory’. Have they been engaged in activities outside their course? Have they a range of interests. Certainly our clients will and we want to make sure our consultantscan create affinity easily and quickly with them.”
Finally I talked to Arthur about Hymans Robertson itself
Right now we are about the 4th largest Employee Benefits & Investment Consultancy in the UK. We are certainly one of the largest independently owned firms in the UK and this is something we are very proud of.
We are growing fast –we have just about doubled in size over the last six years since I have been with the firm. Now we are looking to recruit over 20 trainee consultants a year. We are focused on pensions and investments typically with FTSE 500 companies, providing consultancy advice to some very well-known household names.
We offer a range of services to our clients – assess company liabilities, evaluate benefits for members in pension schemes based on a whole range of criteria and all pension schemes require a thorough analysis of their viability, liabilities and risks every three years. Our actuaries are dealing with millions and billions of pounds and they have to get it. When we recruit people we like to hang on to them – we have a very low turn over rate i.e. people leaving before they complete their professional exams and we’re very proud that we make the effort to support our trainees through this particularly challenging part of their career.
You can find out more about Hymans Robertson at http://www.hymans.co.uk/careers
Other useful links – Careerstagged.co.uk – search term ‘actuary’
www.insidecareers.co.uk/act – an excellent publication though be aware that though it contains information about many of the big recruiters it is not intended to be a directory of firms – use careerstagged to find more firms.