Maths careers: what’s an actuary?
Whether you’re a savvy saver or a serious spender, keeping track of money is big business in the finance sector – and it’s actually more interesting than you’d think. No, really!
We spoke with Abbie Woodrow about what it’s like to be an actuary (if you’ve never heard of it, we’ll let her explain!) and how she uses maths and problem-solving skills every day.
So, what exactly is an actuary?
I work as an actuary in the finance department at Legal & General. Actuaries work out how much money the company needs today to be able to make payments in the future. There can be cases where there is uncertainty around how much the payments will be or when they will be due.
What does your role look like day to day?
I am specifically involved in calculating how much profit we make from selling annuities, which is income for people who have retired. We conduct analysis on our annuity business, which helps senior management decide on what sales strategy to adopt for the future.
At the beginning of the year, we calculate the profit we expect to make from the annuities we have sold so far. Then, each month we calculate how much profit we have actually made and explain why these numbers might be different.
This involves using maths and actuarial models to think about what may have changed since we calculated the forecast – for example, we may have changed our models or assumptions, sold new business, or obtained new data. We then quantify the impact of each of these sources.
What’s your favourite thing about the job, and what surprised you about it?
My job involves a lot of creativity and independent thinking – for example, I’ve been involved in a few projects to rethink how we approach particular calculations and make processes better for the whole team.
I also get to present my work to the Chief Finance Officer and Deputy Finance Director on a regular basis, which I really enjoy. It’s so satisfying to see how my work impacts the wider business.
Lots of girls think that they can’t get into a career that is traditionally male-dominated, such as becoming an actuary. What would you say to that?
Anyone can do any job as long as they’re capable, hardworking and willing to learn. Working with a like-minded, supportive team is also important in creating the right environment for you to thrive.
What advice would you give to girls who are considering STEM subjects, but are afraid of classes being male-dominated?
I would really recommend studying maths to anyone – it’s so rewarding when you have that ‘light bulb’ moment on understanding something new and being to solve challenging problems. It also opens the door to loads of exciting careers.
So, if your ideal career lets you use your maths skills as well as your creativity, maybe becoming an actuary is right up your street?
Head to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries website to find out more and get inspired.