What do actuaries at Grant Thornton do? Alistair from the London office explains…..
I started with the Grant Thornton graduate programme in August 2014, having done an internship at another actuarial consultancy the previous summer.
We are a fast- growing and ambitious team that offer services in almost every actuarial area. Not only is this great for offering clients multi-facetted solutions it is also great for trainees as they get to experience lots of different work before choosing a specialty. This is a big plus for Grant Thornton trainees aren’t pigeon- holed into one area from day one. Luckily my degree was in actuarial science so I had some idea of the kind of areas I was keen to get involved in however that was by no means the norm and all the trainees were allowed to seek out the work they wanted to do.
In the year I’ve been at Grant Thornton I’ve had experience in a wide range of insurance jobs, valuations and risk management work. Most of the trainees’ involvement is in the analysis underpinning actuarial work but I’ve been surprised about the high- level client contact I’ve had, I’ve been in meetings and conference calls with clients from very early on. Aside from the analysis and client contact I have, amongst other things, written parts of reports, produced management information, conducted technical research and assisted with producing marketing material for the team. So it’s fair to say the role is a varied one!
There are lots of different skills required for the role but the most important of them are probably not the ones that spring to mind. The numerical and analytical skills are vital but most people can tick off the base level required with their degree, the rest are learnt on the job. Other technical skills like computing and software are helpful, but not essential and again the easiest way to improve these is whilst using them at work. The skills less easily taught are the soft skills required to work in a team like ours. The size of the team is such that everyone knows everyone else and effective internal communication makes our work much easier. So it is really important that we are all easy going and get along well together. This is also key for the many social events that we attend as a team within Grant Thornton, with the actuarial institute and with clients. These skills are also appreciated by clients, as effective communication allows us to simplify things and get our point across within the context of our work. Business awareness is a useful skill to have and is one that develops quickly with our range of different work areas and clients.
On the other side there are the exams which as you might expect are approached with trepidation amongst trainees. The exams cover a wide range of topics including accounting, risk management, statistics and economics. Passing the exams requires willpower, good time- management and good old fashioned graft. But you’re well supported, the study package (study days and materials etc.) provided is excellent and the reward in the form of a pay rise after passing your exams adds that extra incentive, helping to keep you sane on the lost weekends in the lead up to exams.
A typical day for me as an actuarial trainee will probably revolve around my chargeable work for clients. If it is something new perhaps there would be a meeting or a phone call with the client to discuss what is required before we would crack on the with the task at hand. Once started and given a steer on new tasks by the job manager I will work on whatever that task is. Recently it has been building a model within Excel to replicate and provide assurance on a complex process a client is using. I have been able to take ownership of this and I am now working on it with minimal assistance having learned so much in the past. If it is a large project we often have internal meetings, perhaps twice a week, to catch up with the project team and plan our next steps. With many jobs there is near constant email or phone contact with the client and we have to be flexible enough to change our plans, or our deadlines, at fairly short notice. This makes organisation a key part of the job and communicating any delays or overruns critical. As a trainee there are occasions where I’ve had to stay late to meet a deadline but luckily these occasions are few and far between and it is very much the norm to work normal business hours when we can.
I have found Grant Thornton a great place to work full of fun and interesting people. The actuarial team has a great atmosphere and is full of exciting opportunities for new trainees.