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Sonali Perera – Pensions Consultant

Accountancy, Case study August 5, 2009

Sonali Perera - Pensions Consultant

Job title: Pensions Consultant
Employer: Watson Wyatt, Reigate
Degree subject: MORSE (Maths, Operational Research, Statistics, Economics),  University of Warwick

When and why did you choose an actuarial career? During A levels when I was going through the UCAS process, my maths teacher suggested I look into the actuarial profession as she believed it would suit my abilities. The Actuarial Profession website was especially helpful when researching as it has a section for students, and gave me a genuine insight into what the profession entailed. As I enjoyed maths and wanted a challenging job which would utilise mathematical and analytical skills, and which would involve frequently conversing with colleagues as well as clients, I chose to pursue the profession. As an actuary you get the opportunity to perform the calculations whilst also meeting the clients you are doing them for, which provides the opportunity to see where the work you do fits in the bigger picture. I have found this aspect to be highly rewarding. In my second year at university I did a summer internship at an Actuarial Consultancy, which gave me an insight into the day-to-day work involved and helped confirm that this was the right career path for me. The Profession is very well regarded globally, which is reflected in your pay package and job security.

Briefly explain what your work involves, practice area, etc I work in the Benefits Practice at Watson Wyatt, which involves working on Pension Schemes for companies across the country. The clients I work on are both large and small and it’s nice to sometimes see a client you’re working on in the newspaper or on the news.  Everyday is different, which makes the job interesting. On a daily basis I might be working on calculating the value of an individual member’s pension, valuing the whole pension scheme, developing key pensions software for clients, attending client meetings, assisting with developing presentations for clients and giving training. At Watson Wyatt you are encouraged to think independently and use your initiative to come up with your own way of getting the answer. Training is also a key part of being an Actuary, to help develop your knowledge further.

Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job? As an actuary, it is essential to have team working skills. A lot of the work I do is in teams, and it is important to be able to work within the team to get the task completed efficiently and on time. Also, you need to be able to manage your time efficiently as sometimes you will be working on a few tasks at the same time with different deadlines and having to fit study into your week as well. You need to be able to motivate yourself, think independently and enjoy learning.

What do you like most about your job?  The thing I like most about my job is the people I work with. In the Reigate office I work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The people are very approachable and everyone is always willing to take time out to answer any questions I have. The environment at Watson Wyatt is very friendly and there are many socials organised throughout the year. Everyone works hard, but also knows how to enjoy themselves, this makes working here very enjoyable. I also like the fact that you are continuously learning and as a graduate you will be joining with many people who are in the same position as you.

How do you achieve a work/life balance? As you develop and gain more experience, it can become difficult to fit a social life, work and study in and time management becomes very important. However there are so many socials going on and you are encouraged to maintain a good work/life/study balance. Occasionally you may have to work longer hours; however the culture here is very supportive and rewarding.

Future plans?   still have quite a few more exams to go, however I am hoping to do a Masters course, offered by Watson Wyatt that will also get me closer to qualifying. The study package is quite generous and the supportive culture all help towards becoming a qualified actuary. Pensions is quite a ‘hot topic’ at the moment and the industry is continuously changing which keeps my job very interesting.

Any advice you may have for others considering an actuarial career? I would advise anyone considering an actuarial career to read the Actuarial Profession website and find out as much as you can about the profession as a whole. Employer websites, such as the Watson Wyatt graduate website, is extremely helpful as they contain specific job descriptions and profiles of people who work there. Most employers offer summer internships and insight days which can also be very useful as it gives you the opportunity to talk to people who do the job and find out what it’s really like to be an actuary. Life as an actuarial consultant is hard work, but at the same time makes for a highly rewarding career.

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