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Thread: Actuarial foundations

  1. #1
    Actuary.com - Newbie Poster
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    Oct 2013
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    Actuarial foundations

    Hello all,

    I am in my final year at university (in the UK) and I am expecting to graduate with first class honours in Physics. I have been interested in becoming an actuary since I was around 16, and a couple of years ago I decided to go for it. I have sent off a few applications for graduate programmes, and I am going to send off some more this week. I have two main questions to ask.

    1. What kind of background knowledge would make me a really solid candidate? My problem solving, mathematics and communication skills are good. My business knowledge, however, is probably my weakest area. I have been reading around finance and business for the last year or two, but as a physicist I am not exposed to these things as much as I would be if I were doing, say, an economics degree or something like that. In my last interview (at KPMG), I was asked to explain, in as much detail as I could, how the actuarial department works with the other departments in KPMG in order to provide their service. I had no idea I would have to know something like that in any detail, and in my research of the company I didn't come across much to help me answer that question. Does anybody have any advice on how to prepare for these kinds of questions? I realise this is a little bit vague but I would appreciate any advice here.

    2. I need a good backup plan in case I don't get into a graduate scheme. I am applying to about 20-25 firms (that's most of the ones that do graduate schemes in the UK) and obviously places are very competitive. My ambition is to become an actuary, so presumably I would apply to some other jobs now and maybe attempt to get some actuarial exams under my belt before reapplying. If anybody has any advice on that, (for example, what type of temporary job might be appropriate), that would be great.

    Thank you for any advice!

  2. #2
    Actuary.com - Level II Poster
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    44
    Hello,

    Given your background in mathematics, you only need to apply it to probability, statistics, financial mathematics and some of stochastic calculus for the exams.

    You'll learn the business on the job only. Exams serve two purposes: 1) familiarize the candidate with some concepts of insurance, and 2) attest your mathematical proficiency and determination. Schools mostly aim at helping prepare students for the exams, but there's no added value; furthermore, it's possible to pass them without attending class/workshops or any kind of sponsorship.

    The interview question would frustrate many applicants. Unless you knew beforehand the job description in detail, you can't be expected to explain the functions you'll perform nor what other hypothetical departments are about. At that point a candidate can only provide generic answers. In such cases, your best option is to gather information about the context before you produce an answer.

    Having a backup plan is a good idea. Beware about the frequently stated shortage of actuarial professionals in Europe; it conveys the false impression of opportunity for entry-level candidates. That speech only refers to actuaries with years of experience. The fact is that deadline for Solvency II keeps being postponed because its formulation as well as its implementations remain in immature states; amendments and clarifications are subject to slow decision-making processes. Over the years that this has been happening, talented candidates could have developed strong skills (had they gotten an opportunity in the industry). One can sense the idealism in the European environment.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
    Actuary.com - Newbie Poster
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    Oct 2013
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    Thanks for the response, Iņaki.

    It's a relief to know that the question was a tough one. For some reason it didn't occur to me to ask questions about the question, but that would be a good way to go. Perhaps this will give you some insight into my lack of business knowledge - I wouldn't even know what questions to ask (especially not on the spot)! Without putting pressure on you to answer again (you've already been very helpful), could I ask for guidance in this area? How can I get familiar enough with this sort of thing that I will know what questions to ask in case of a question of this genre?

    Thanks again for any more help.

  4. #4
    Actuary.com - Level II Poster
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    They might just want to see how you approach an unknown situation; it's hard to list specific suggestions. Besides the more detailed we get on this, the quicker it will render that type of questions a HR questionnaire (name 5 strengths and 5 weaknesses; where you see yourself in 1, 5 and 10 years?). Everybody will come up with a pre-made set of questions to fire away at the interview.

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