A day in the life of Ross McBride
I joined Barnett Waddingham in September 2017 on the graduate scheme after studying Mathematics, Statistics and Economics at Strathclyde University.
The Public Sector team advise pension funds in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) while also offering advice to Police Authorities, Fire and Rescue Services, and others who participate in Public Sector schemes. Each public sector scheme is governed by a unique set of regulations and with each successive government and budget, legislation changes becoming increasingly complex as efficiencies are sought out.
A large proportion of our work is focussed on producing statutory triennial valuations. In these valuations we assess funding levels and offer advice for best possible courses of action in relation to deficit contributions and liability management. In the LGPS each individual employer needs their own funding position reviewed and contribution rate set. We spend a lot of the time in the intervaluation period on setting up our systems including developing our IT to ensure a smooth and efficient process at valuation time.
The LGPS is a multi-employer scheme and some of the funds are made up of several hundred employers. The work we carry out for these employers comprises a large proportion of our day-to-day tasks during the intervaluation period. The tasks that we typically undertake include: accounting disclosures, academy conversion reports and setting new employer contribution rates. I spend a lot of time making sure that data is accurate. This is fundamental in all of our work, ensuring the end result is of the highest possible standard.
We work closely as a team to ensure that there is an even distribution of work and assist one another if need be. The public sector team formed in 2006 and is still made up of its original staff. We are a relatively small team that has grown over the years. Although I haven’t been in the team long, there is a strong sense of community and social responsibility. Everyone in the team gets on extremely well – in and out of work.
I’ve always had an ambition to be an actuary in the pensions sector and what stood out to me about Barnett Waddingham was the fantastic culture. The values of the firm are four words that everyone can believe in: principled, partnership, respect and quality.
The firm invests in its people ensuring adequate time is devoted to training and development. The firm develops long-lasting relationships with clients, sets high standards for everyone and ensures that these standards are consistently maintained. I enjoy continuous learning, a consequence of the wide variety of work that we do. I’ve been given the chance to build client relationships from day one through regular contact with clients, which has become an important aspect of my role.
Barnett Waddingham enjoys giving back to the community, where once a month we raise funds for a specific charity through dress-down, bake sales and quizzes.
The firm encourages a well-defined study/life balance with plenty of events and opportunities to interact with colleagues from other offices. I have travelled to the London office on a number of occasions for training sessions where I’ve been able to meet staff from other offices across the country. The firm hosts away days including a football and netball competition each year, with all offices participating. Unfortunately, Glasgow has yet to win either of these events, but we hope to change this next year!
Another aspect of this profession is the actuarial exams which are extremely challenging, yet rewarding. The firm offers a generous study package and a well-structured support programme. As part of the programme we are all assigned a qualified actuary as a mentor. They are always there to answer questions on studying and often share their own experiences and personal approach to tackling exams. I believe the programme has helped develop my exam planning, time-management which I hope will assist in the passing of exams in years to come.
Aside from exams, being an actuarial student in Glasgow has many benefits - we are lucky enough to have our own student’s society. The Glasgow Actuarial Student’s Society (GASS) ball falls in November each year. As an initiation, each new graduate receives a personalised speech (kindly written by colleagues). The IFoA, GASS and FASS (the Edinburgh equivalent) host regular presentations, all of which have experienced and engaging speakers. These events are always occasion to realise industry challenges (pensions and non-pensions related) and also a great way to network and chat with other actuarial students over a beer!