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A millenial’s view

Published on: 1 Mar 2018

Naomi O'Brien 15-year-old Naomi O’Brien describes a wide variety of experience in her week of work alongside actuaries at an investment firm.

While going through high school, I have started to wonder what I could do when I leave and embark on a career in the real world. You might think that 15-year-olds should not be thinking too much about these things, but I like to plan ahead! 

I thought about the things that I like doing and have a passion for at school; these include sports, music, maths and the sciences. What could I do if I really concentrated on these subjects during the final years of school? It was from identifying and looking at the career possibilities from these subjects that I decided to understand more about what being an actuary involved. What do they really do? I knew that they worked with numbers but there had to be more to it than that… didn’t there?

I decided to get some work experience in an organisation where I could experience first-hand the wide range of roles an actuary can get involved in, the opportunities that it presented and what would I need to do to become one. I was really lucky and managed to get a work experience placement for one week at Aberdeen Standard Investments. Even though it is an investment company (so not a typical organisation for actuaries) I found that there were actuaries working in a wide range of areas. 

So, here is what I found out from my working week.

It soon became clear that being an actuary was more than ‘just about numbers’ and that there were a wide variety of roles that you could get involved in.

While the use of maths, formulas, equations and problem solving were important, what was more important was the understanding of what the answers told you, and how the results were then used. I was then able to see how actuaries used their expertise with numbers in their respective roles and I discovered there were career opportunities I never really knew existed.

I got to see some of the research analysis aimed at understanding what’s happening in the world’s stock markets; what trends were taking place and how the research analysts created forecasts based on probabilities to understand where they might invest funds and make the largest investment return. Investment research is wide ranging as it involves getting to know all about the different companies, sectors and geographies. This was much more than just about the number aspects but about building a broad profile of the opportunity, and understanding if that was a good fit with the fundamental assessment of a company’s strategy and management team.

I also realised that communication skills were highly important as well when speaking with actuaries more involved with talking to clients on a regular basis. Interacting with clients and prospects in a clear manner can be key to the success of the team. Winning and keeping clients are both very important to building a large client base. As well as communicating with clients, it was interesting to see how actuaries could also use their skills and apply it to market materials. 

From my week with Aberdeen Standard Investments, my eyes were opened to the huge range of potential different career opportunities. This is before I have even considered the opportunities that could exist within other sectors such as Pensions, Life Insurance and General Insurance. 

What did become clear to me though, through all of the conversations that I had with the different team members, was that there would be a lot of hard work ahead and a lot of exams to pass! However, the opportunities that this could bring and the rewards that it could present will make all of the effort required worthwhile.

Naomi O’Brien (aged 15)
Balerno High School