The Actuarial Profession is looking to provide a bridge between companies and academia by encouraging participation in MSc projects to investigate industry issues. Here Andy Cox and Woojin Oh discuss their experiences as employer and student respectively.
31 JAN 2012 | ANDY COX / WOOJIN OH
Company perspective: Andy Cox
I first heard about the initiative via a circular from the Profession to companies' Education Representatives. The Profession wanted to encourage companies to propose and help supervise MSc projects with a practical focus. This did seem like an excellent idea for all parties involved but I must admit one phrase did jump out of the page at me - "Very often there are no direct costs to the company".
The appeal to a company does of course go beyond this rather superficial attraction. As well as access to a student who can spend time focusing on a particular area, there is likely to be indirect access to the knowledge of professors and lecturers who are supervising the student's project.
There are, of course, indirect costs for the company - the project needs to be well specified with time spent with the student explaining the business and the project. Depending on the need to access data and systems, the student may need only a few days on-site for which the company should pay any travel and accommodation costs. Offsetting against this, the university supervisors will help manage the timeline for the project.
One particular area the company needs to consider is confidentiality of the data being used and of the end conclusions of the project. Here, data may need to be edited so that it is anonymised; often the university is more than happy to sign a confidentiality agreement and if necessary make no specific mention of the company name in the final MSc report.
There are then the less tangible benefits to the company, university and Profession of pushing forward research and building links between companies and the academic world. The tangible output is, however, a piece of high-quality research applicable to the company's needs.
One of the most appealing aspects of the project was the opportunity to interact with experienced actuaries and gain insights into how the business is run. Legal & General helped me to understand the bigger picture of the business via a series of introductory information sessions about the company.
I then had regular discussions over several months both visiting the office and via teleconference. This let me better understand the project and gave me first-hand insight into the workings of the insurance industry, which could be an invaluable asset in today's competitive job market.
Another benefit of the project was the opportunity to ask actuarial students about working life in a leading insurance company.
The most exciting task of the project was the presentation regarding the research findings. Nowadays, many professions demand excellent presentation skills but the opportunity to deliver a presentation before a group of professionals rarely presents itself. It was exciting and challenging to be offered such a valuable experience.
The project was the first step taken in forging a link between the University of Southampton and Legal & General. It was clear that my presentation would speak for whether the project had been satisfactory, but if disappointing to the sponsor, this could adversely affect the relationship. Fortunately, the presentation went well, partly due to my presentation experience as an intelligence officer in the Korean Army!
A challenging requirement of the presentation was to explain technical content in layman's terms - a skill essential to becoming a successful actuary. We learn from experience, and I believe this presentation experience has improved my ability to communicate such technical content to diverse audiences.
Since the beginning of my studies in Southampton, there was never a doubt that I was pursuing the right career. The project with Legal & General served as more than an assessment on my academic ability. It was an opportunity to broaden my knowledge about the insurance business; deepen my interest in the profession; evaluate my competence as an aspiring actuary; and confirm my suitability to the actuarial profession. I sincerely hope that more actuarial students will benefit from similar projects in the years to come.
If any company or university is interested in being involved in the 2012 MSc initiative then please contact the Profession's research project manager, Pauline Simpson at [email protected]