Name: Stephanie Pilling, 23
Degree: Maths and Statistics (1st) University of York
Chartered Body: Institute of Actuaries
"Although it might sound geeky, I wanted a career where I could use maths every day, but not be stuck in an office all the time," says Stephanie. She also wanted a job where she could continue to study for a recognised qualification and where she’d have a lot of client contact. Becoming an actuary provided the solution.
While Stephanie gained a first in maths and statistics from the University of York in 2005, it’s not obligatory to have a mathematical background, insists the Institute of Actuaries in England and Wales. Actuaries have degrees in anything from Spanish to geography, but the one thing they do have in common is an interest in maths, simply because the job involves providing commercial, finance and prudential advice on the management of assets and liabilities.
"I made my decision to become an actuary in my final year at university, as a result of talking to companies at careers fairs about the different departments in financial firms," says Stephanie.
The next step was to apply to companies. "I approached my careers centre and got a booklet listing every single actuarial company. I decided I liked the idea of pensions because the consultancy side of the work was greater. I knew I wanted to stay in the north of England too, so I chose the companies that fitted the bill, looked at their websites and applied to what seemed to me to be the best of them."
Stephanie’s first reply was from Hewitt and after a day at an assessment centre, she was offered a job. "I joined the company in September 2005 and got sent on numerous training courses to get up to speed with the technology that the company uses as standard," she says. "Then we started with some basic calculations and as we grew in confidence, we were given more complicated work, such as doing valuations for pension schemes and preparing bulletins for clients around new legislation in the world of pensions."
Now that newer graduates have joined Hewitt, Stephanie’s work has moved up a notch to involve checking the work, rather than doing it, and once she’s qualified as a fellow with the Institute of Actuaries she’ll move up to become the scrutiniser. Her long-term aim is to be out there meeting clients in a consultancy role.