A day in the life of Ben Harris
Actuary and Partner
In many ways these are two distinct roles, with a lot of overlap. I joined Barnett Waddingham in 2001, shortly after I graduated from university. I progressed from an Actuarial Trainee through to qualification, Associateship and eventually Partnership. I’ve always said that the role never stays the same, and this is one of the things I enjoy most about working here.
As I gained experience and expertise, the role progressed from ‘doing’ the nuts and bolts work, through to checking and allocating work amongst the team, delivering advice at meetings and managing relationships with clients. This way of progressing ensures an understanding of the detailed issues and provides a well-rounded experience base to draw on, which continues to serve me well as a Scheme Actuary.
The firm has grown every year since I joined which has provided opportunities to grow as an individual. This has continued as a Partner, with even more opportunities to get closely involved in the running of the business.
As a Scheme Actuary, I’m responsible for delivering a great service to our clients and, ultimately, the team plays an important role in achieving this. It’s my responsibility to provide the team direction on a higher level, making key decisions on the issues that we face. That said, I am still very much involved in addressing good solid actuarial problems day-to-day, where the benefit of experience helps in finding appropriate solutions.
It sounds like a cliché, but every day is truly different. To help illustrate this, I have jotted down some of the things I’ve done today:
Drafted some advice to a trustee regarding their scheme’s approximate funding position in light of ‘Brexit’ and latest market conditions
Joined a conference call to prepare for a meeting we are having with an Independent Trustee firm that we work with later this week
Provide actuarial input into the calculation of a member’s ill-health early retirement benefits
Join a webinar run by colleagues in our Workplace Health & Wealth team to hear about some exciting new online tools we have produced to help our clients engage with their staff
Talk to a pension administration colleague about progress on an enhanced transfer values project we’re implementing on behalf of a client
Write this blog post!
As well as the variety of my daily working life, I really like the people I work with. As a firm our key principles, have been central to the kind of people we have employed. ‘Doing the right thing’ is one of our values and the people who want to protect this embedded culture tend to share common traits.
I enjoy feeling like part of a team. For example, we operate a named team for each of our clients - working together to help them address their issues can be very rewarding. Our culture is very supportive and challenges aren’t faced alone so success is shared and, as a Partnership, we have a shared interest in making a success of the business. This encourages supportive behaviours which result in the best outcomes for the firm as a whole - creating a great environment in which to work!
I enjoy the fact that I can make a difference and I like solving problems. Every day presents different challenges that requires lateral thinking. The payoff is feeling good about a job well done – whether that’s helping a client solve a problem, sharing experience and ideas or putting together a compelling new business proposition that demonstrates where we can add real value to a potential client.
I like that I come into contact with a diverse range of people on a daily basis. Naturally I see the actuarial team more than most, but I speak to pension administration colleagues nearly as much, and regularly liaise with HR, secretarial and marketing.
Of course though, our clients are our business. I think strong personal relationships with clients are crucial, as they provide the greatest diversity – particularly trustees who come from all walks of life. I work with other professionals, including pension lawyers and auditors.
There’s a great social side of Barnett Waddingham too, which I really enjoy. I’ve made close friends here who I regularly spend time with out of work. I organise an annual trip to Le Mans for the 24 hour race, and the majority of people who come along are friends I’ve made here. Someone in the actuarial team also arranges an annual ‘dream trip’ to a European destination and there are lots of sports and social events closer to home.
Perhaps the greatest accolade I could give is that I can’t imagine working anywhere else!