My name’s Rhiannon and I’m currently on my year in industry for my degree in Actuarial Sciences. I have wanted to be an actuary for several years now due to the technical and mathematical nature of the work. It’s a challenging and varied career.
I’m a keen linguist and wanted to use my placement year as an opportunity to go abroad and improve my language skills. I had always wanted to live and work in Paris. I also wanted to find a placement in the (re)insurance industry.
About my placement
SCOR is a French reinsurance company who offer incredibly interesting work for actuaries, so I saw this as the perfect placement opportunity. I had a preliminary telephone interview with the boss of the Actuarial Modelling team. We discussed what I had learnt so far in my degree and what kind of work the placement would involve. As I would be working mainly with French people it was also important for them to get a feel for my level of French. I then had a Skype interview with HR and with two of the bosses to further discuss the position. I was offered the role with six months in the headquarters in Paris and six months in the London office.
The Careers and Employability team provided a lot of support throughout the process. I had more administrative work to complete due to the fact that half of my year in industry was abroad. They were continually supportive of me getting to do the placement that I wanted. As well as admin work, the team are incredibly good at helping answer any worries or questions and immediately put you at ease about the prospect of doing a placement.
Working with statistics
My role is to help SCOR to validate their internal model for interest rates. I use programmes such as R (a statistical software), Excel and SCOR’s tool called the Economic Scenario Generator (ESG) on a daily basis. A major part of my role so far has been using R to replicate the scenarios produced through the ESG. It involves running code in R and analysing the output in Excel before making comparisons with the output of the ESG. It also involves daily fun with my colleagues as there is such a great, inclusive atmosphere in SCOR, which is something I have loved.
The main thing I love about my placement is how interesting the work is. It involves many different tasks, so although I am using the same programmes and tools every day, the work has not been repetitive at all. I also love how my team have made me feel like a valued member of the company. They have taken so much time to help me understand the technical concepts and to teach me the operational aspects so that I am able to carry out the role to the best of my ability.
Challenges and achievements
The biggest challenge has been the language barrier. It has been difficult trying to learn new technical topics as well as understanding these concepts in French. In the months that I have been here though, my language skills have improved massively. I can now just enjoy the challenge of working with French people.
The task I have been most proud of completing since I began my placement was writing the quarterly automatisation of the R code for replication of the ESG. It was something I had to work on for weeks before getting it to work. We encountered many problems during this process. We were constantly making small changes and testing it repetitively, so I had a huge feeling of pride when it finally ran.
The first two months of my placement were spent studying the concepts that I would need to understand before starting the operational phase of my year. This was particularly challenging as the topics were things that I will only study in my final year of university. I covered things such as interest rate models, derivative securities, stochastic calculus, and actuarial methods such as bootstrapping and backtesting.
Choosing to study at York was an easy decision for me as the university has a great reputation, specifically for the maths department. It is one of the few universities who offer the course with a year in industry included which was a hugely important aspect for me. I also love the city itself and York’s college system is a fantastic way to make friends and get involved in university life.
My favourite thing about York is how friendly the people are and how willing the lecturers, supervisors and college representatives are to help in all aspects of your university life. I moved to York from Northern Ireland which was a daunting experience initially, but the second you arrive at York there are students to greet you and help you get settled. Being part of a college is a big part of this. I also love living in York as it is a beautiful, historic city with lots of things to do and a great atmosphere.
I was aware that my degree would be challenging as it is a very specific and technical career path, but I was surprised at the jump from sixth form to first year of university and I was not expecting it to be as tough as it was. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and it has meant that I have learnt so much. My mathematical, analytical and problem solving skills have improved hugely.