Summer Students' Experience: Spreadsheets and the City

Published by Kim Durniat on

Looking back on our eight weeks in Barnett Waddingham’s Insurance Actuarial practice, we recall fondly the unique learning experiences of the summer programme.

We are amazed at how far our skills have developed and how much we’ve learnt during this period. In this blog, we’d like to tell you all about some of our favourite aspects of the summer placement: the technical work that we were involved in, the social characteristics of the firm, and everything that makes Barnett Waddingham unique among actuarial consultancies.

The first day of work was a relaxed induction consisting initially of ice-breakers where we met our work colleagues and fellow interns. This was followed by a series of presentations giving a broad overview of the insurance industry and what happens in the team. The induction day not only settled us into the working environment but also gave us a good idea of what we would be doing throughout our internships.

During our time at Barnett Waddingham, we each got the opportunity to work with both the Life and General Insurance teams, as well as spending two weeks with the firm’s Longevity Consulting team. Training sessions were spread out over the first four weeks which proved to be a very effective way of learning, as it meant that we could gradually take everything in as and when it was needed. Essential software training took place at the beginning of the internship, followed later by specific technical training sessions. To complement these, we also received introductory sessions to the work done by the rest of the firm, allowing us to gain exposure to areas such as Pensions and Trustee Consulting. Furthermore, Omair decided to spend a day with Investment Consulting to find out more about their work.

"Essential software training took place at the beginning of the internship, followed later by specific technical training sessions"

A fear for any intern is to be left with nothing but data entry; however it quickly turned out that this was not at all the case on Barnett Waddingham’s summer programme. The first task that was given to us was to research the finances of several companies and produce reports on their current financial position. This was not only a very interesting task involving some household names, but learning how to research company financials is an essential and highly transferable skill used throughout the entire financial services industry.

We had the opportunity to get involved in some client work which was often quite technical and the training sessions proved to sufficiently prepare us for this. With our mentors there to guide us along the way, we gained a true insight into the typical work that is done by insurance actuaries. As well as technical work, we also wrote blog articles on topics of interest. These ranged from subjects such as current affairs in the insurance industry, to new concepts like microinsurance and also fun articles including Fantasy Football.

We were all really excited to get a taste of the social side of city life and certainly weren’t left disappointed. We were made more than welcome at all socials throughout our 8 weeks and attended an excellent variety of events. Pub lunches and Friday night drinks were our first opportunity to bond with the team outside the office, as well as giving us the opportunity to meet members of the Pensions, Longevity and Investment teams. Our first team social night was an evening dining in Pizza Express followed by a trip to a comedy club in the West End. This was a good experience and we all valued spending time with the team in an out of office environment. Next we attended the Staple Inn Actuarial Society (SIAS) boat party which was an experience we all thoroughly enjoyed; cruising the Thames on a perfect summers evening, while enjoying a BBQ and seeing London’s top sights at night. The Newton consultant charity challenge was next on the agenda which was an It’s a knock out team competition held midweek at The Honourable Artillery Company in the centre of the city. This was followed by an awards presentation and first class meal within the historic grounds, which gave us a real taster of the networking scene in the city.

"We were all really excited to get a taste of the social side of city life and certainly weren’t left disappointed"

There is an inclusive and united attitude within Barnett Waddingham. Everybody works in the same office space, so there’s no intimidating hierarchical structure - Partners work as part of the teams, not as their bosses. They even join us at social events and we were treated to lunch with the Partners in our third week, which was a great chance to get to know them personally as well as find out about their insights into the industry.

The Insurance Actuarial team is relatively small, which means that we’ve had the chance to get involved in a variety of work. There was always more than enough for us to do and we were each able to find something that interested us to get involved in. We were encouraged to actively contribute to weekly team meetings, which helped us get to know the types of projects the teams were working on as well as feel fully immersed in our roles.

Barnett Waddingham is a firm that truly believes in its values, most of all, “Doing it the right way”. The firm actively reflects this value - everybody is open and honest, and we’ve heard The Actuaries’ Code quoted more than once! We were honoured to be part of a firm that works with such integrity and hope to carry these values forward in the future.

Overall the summer internship was a well-rounded and enjoyable experience. We are all very thankful for the opportunity we were given; getting experience within the field we all hope to go into after University has been invaluable and our development over the 8 weeks will put us in a good position going forward. We are all very much looking forward to the actuarial career path ahead and would highly recommend the placement to anyone thinking about a career as an actuary.

"Everybody is extremely passionate about their work and this attitude has been very contagious! "

We were also granted the opportunity to organise two socials of our own. The first was an office games night where we played a range of team games whilst enjoying Pimm’s and pizza. The second was an evening trip to Bounce where we put our table tennis talent into action.

During the internship we took advantage of the opportunity to attend a variety of talks and presentations held during evenings within the city. A particular highlight was the SIAS Role of today’s Actuary debate which exceeded our expectations and provided us with a very interesting and informative evening. We will definitely be attending similar events in the future. Alongside evening talks we were fortunate enough to be given tours of the Lloyds of London building and the Bank of England. Both tours provided us with an extensive learning experience of the insurance and finance industry through presentations regarding their history and current affairs.

The attributes which we enjoyed most about working at Barnett Waddingham are the ones which make it unique as an actuarial consultancy. Most notable is the atmosphere, which derives from the effervescent nature of the workforce. Everybody is extremely passionate about their work and this attitude has been very contagious! Consequently, working at Barnett Waddingham has been both enjoyable and stimulating. The office is welcoming and productive - we haven’t felt under pressure to stay late or work over lunch during our time here, and have been given every opportunity to learn a lot and accomplish much.

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