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An Actuarial Adventure

Written by .
Published 15th October 2019.
Many students will now be looking for graduate jobs or internships. Alistair reflects on his time in London working as a trainee actuary at PwC.

During the first half of 2019, I undertook a placement as part of the PwC Flying Start programme. The placement was in PwC’s More London office, located beside the River Thames, close to Tower Bridge. PwC is one of the “Big Four” accounting companies, alongside EY, KPMG and Deloitte, and employs over 250,000 people worldwide. PwC is frequently ranked as the top graduate employer in the UK, according to “The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers” list. My role was with the “Risk Modelling Services” team, or RMS for short. The RMS team works in a variety of areas, including life insurance, general insurance, banking and corporates.

The recruitment process for the placement began in February 2018, when PwC held an event on the Riccarton campus where they promoted the flying start programme and ran some psychometric tests. After passing the psychometric tests, candidates were invited to fill out the application form for the Flying Start programme. Once my application had been successful, we were invited to an assessment centre in PwC’s Edinburgh Office. This involved a solo written exercise, to be completed in under 30 minutes, and a group discussion with the other applicants. Both tasks were based upon an imaginary company seeking help in deciding on how to expand their business. After successfully passing the assessment centre, the last stage was an interview with a director in the Edinburgh office. Fortunately, this was a success and I was offered the placement with PwC.

In my six months there, I predominantly worked on auditing 2018 full year results for life insurance companies. This primarily involved reconciling figures stated in their full year reports, making sure that the figures stated matched the internal documents from the client and gave a true and fair view of the financial state of the client. We also reviewed the client’s methodology and assumptions, looking for changes and then judging whether those changes were reasonable or expected. I also worked on a project which involved gathering data from life insurers and creating a report which compared the mortality and longevity assumptions used by those life insurers. This report was distributed to the participants of the survey and was also used by PwC for the 2018 full year audits.

There was a positive work environment in the PwC office. As an intern, I had a lot of questions relating to various aspects of the work and anyone I spoke to, including more senior members of staff, was very happy to answer my questions. I gained a lot of insight into the life of an actuarial graduate and how they balance their work life, social life and their studies for professional exams. The dress for your day policy made working more comfortable, saving the need to wear a suit if you weren’t meeting clients that day. The company also promotes fundraising, through its “One Firm One Day” campaign. This year, the five social teams within the RMS department competed to raise the most money by holding book sales, gaming events and even running a Deliveroo style service for the day.

All in all, my six months working for PwC was a great insight into life beyond university, and how the skills you’ve picked up through the course of your education are applied in the real world. I now look forward to returning to PwC in July 2020, for my second six-month placement.