[Skip to content]

Sign up for our daily newsletter
The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
.

Switching sectors

_______________________________________________________________

Matt Fewster (right) is an associate at JP Morgan


Can you briefly summarise your actuarial career thus far, including at which stage in the exams you switched sectors?
MF: I started my career out of university in a pensions consultancy doing fairly typical valuation work. After two years I made the switch into an investment bank, joining a pension advisory group, where I was designing and marketing hedging solutions for pension schemes, as well as getting involved in pension-related M&A advisory work.

At the stage I moved I only had one exam left (my fellowship paper). Four years on, I am still in investment banking and qualified a few years ago.

Why did you decide to switch?
I had become pretty bored with my pensions consultancy job and was looking for something that would challenge me more and provide me with more responsibility. An investment bank seemed like a good place to get this type of career and luckily I managed to achieve it before the economy turned south.

How did you find interviewing for a job role you hadn’t done before?
The interview process was like nothing I had experienced elsewhere. I ended up having eight interviews (which can be at the low end for a bank), including getting grilled on technical questions. So it was a bit of a culture shock, but an interesting experience.

What exams knowledge have you found useful in your new sector?
I found the basic financial training the actuarial exams give incredibly useful generally in my day-to-day work, but the most relevant have probably been the derivative papers.

How easy has the transition been?
I found the change of working environment to be pretty huge with a very steep learning curve. You certainly have to work a lot harder and need to be a lot more self-reliant as well as developing a more commercial mindset. The most useful thing I have found from my previous job was a solid understanding of liabilities and cashflows combined with the general knowledge I gained of the pensions world.

What would you say to students considering switching between sectors?
You face a lot of competition to get into a bank, and not just from other actuaries, so my advice is to be as fully prepared as you possibly can, not only in standard actuarial topics, but also on the markets and how banks work.

_______________________________________________________________

Joe McLean (below) is a trainee pensions actuary for Atkin & Co

Can you briefly summarise your actuarial career thus far, including at which stage in the exams you switched sectors?
JM: I have worked for one year in the life insurance industry and have also worked for a few months within the pension consultancy business.

Why did you decide to switch?
I wanted to move into an environment where I would work in a wider role and develop personally from engaging with the entire scope of the sector from the outset. This doesn’t happen within the life insurance section, as actuarial students there tend to develop through a series of work function rotations.

How did you find interviewing for a job role you hadn’t done before?
Interview styles were broadly similar, although all actuaries must have excellent communication skills; this is further tested when interviewing for a trainee pensions actuary role. This is logical since pension actuaries must be able to explain technically complex pension scheme valuations to trustees and companies with little knowledge of actuarial principles.

What exams knowledge have you found useful in your new sector?
I covered pensions as part of my university course, which was a good base from which to build. I have passed CT7 and CT8, which is a good start, but I feel the knowledge gained from the CT exams can be applied to both sectors equally.

How easy has the transition been?
Due to the wide variety of work in pension consultancy, there is little repetition so it is necessary to get a full understanding of the work the first time as it may be a while before a similar piece of work arises. I developed a very good understanding of Microsoft Excel functions and programming code, and this has enabled me to gain more responsibility in a shorter period of time.

What would you say to students considering switching between sectors?
Think about what you want from a career and where you could best use your natural talents. If you would prefer more client interaction and more variety then maybe pensions would suit you.