Rachel Graham – my Spence & Partners experience as an actuarial placement student

Rachel Graham

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My name is Rachel Graham, I am currently a 3rd year student at Queens University Belfast studying for a BSc in Actuarial Science, a four year degree course, with the third year spent in an actuarial working environment. Having studied Actuarial Mathematics and Actuarial Modelling in my second year at Queens I was keen to gain a better insight into the pension side of actuarial work during my placement year. I first became aware of Spence & Partners following a careers fair at the university; Spence & Partners are a firm of Actuaries and Pension Consultants and a niche player in this industry. Following the careers fair, I gained more information from their company website and from placement officers at the university and was very interested to learn more, so I applied for the actuarial placement student post and was successful in securing a 12 month placement.

I have been working at Spence & Partners for over 3 months now and have already been involved in a variety of actuarial tasks. Having listened to other students who completed their placements with other companies I had expected to be performing general office duties for the first few weeks, photocopying and filing etc. however this was not the case! From day one I have been contributing to proper actuarial work, including; drafting actuarial reports, calculating transfer values, pensioner liability projections and FRS17 disclosures to name a few. I have had guidance and support along the way from everyone at Spence & Partners, especially the actuarial team, who are always willing to answer any questions and have made me feel at home from the beginning.

To date, I have gained a wide range of skills and knowledge at Spence & Partners. Much of the work I do is computerised so my knowledge of IT, especially Microsoft Excel, has improved so much that I would feel confident completing any piece of work that was Excel based. Spence & Partners has enabled me to build upon my team working skills as I work within an actuarial team of approximately 12 people, in both Belfast and Glasgow. I feel it has been an advantage to complete my placement with a small company as there is a close knit environment here and everyone is keen to help each other out as much as possible. Also, I have gained a great insight into the completion of actuarial tasks from start to finish, which enables me to experience how the skills and knowledge I have gained so far at university are put into practice in a real actuarial environment. Through correspondence with clients and work colleagues via email, telephone and letters, my communication skills have improved as well as my confidence coping in stressful situations when meeting deadlines.

I am certainly gaining the most from my placement experience so far and already feel confident that the actuarial profession is where I wish to be in the future. I look forward to the remainder of my time with Spence & Partners, to build upon the skills I have gained so far and prepare me for my final year at University.