Actuarial modelling in Paris and London: what I’ve learned

Hi, I’m Rhiannon, and I’ve been working as an Actuarial Modelling intern for SCOR. I spent the first half of my year in SCOR’s head office in Paris which was amazing, before moving to London in January for the second half of my placement.

My favourite part of this experience has been living in two major cities and working with some incredible people. I’ve improved my technical knowledge, and skills necessary in the working environment such as communication, teamwork and presentation skills.

The whole year has built my confidence massively. Even though there have been difficult moments during the year, it has made me realise that I am capable of working in this challenging environment.

Working at SCOR

SCOR is a French global reinsurance company, essentially an insurance company for the insurers. It was an ideal organisation for me to work at due to the technical nature of the work and the fact that they employ a lot of actuaries.

It was great to experience two very different working cultures. Part of the culture that I loved in the Paris office were our daily team lunches in the canteen and coffees in the courtyard. This was a great team bonding time and was part of the day where I could get to know my colleagues better. SCOR had around sixty interns over the summer. It was a fantastic network of people who I could go out with after work. I have made some lifelong friends as a result.

London had a very different working culture but one I equally enjoyed. The social side of work was more prominent. There were many events organised by the company for building better relationships with colleagues, such as after-work drinks, a summer party, crazy golf, etc. I loved the company quiz night. It brought some competitive spirit and time with my colleagues outside the working environment. Although I was the youngest person in the office, through these socials I made some great friends.

On the London Eye

The whole year has been a memorable one but one of my most memorable and favourite moments was during my last week at SCOR in Paris. My whole team gathered around and gave me a huge card, thanking me for my contribution. It was amazing to really feel a part of my team and a part of the company and know that they had recognised my hard work and dedication.

What does an actuary do?

An actuary is a professional who uses statistical methods to analyse risk, often in insurance companies. My role is in the actuarial modelling team, which is the team responsible for validating the company’s internal risk models.

This year, I have been specifically looking at SCOR’s interest rate risk model. It has been incredibly interesting and has given me a view of many different related risks within the company. I have been running tests in order to validate the current interest rate model. I will use the results to make recommendations for improvements to the model in future years.

My main aim in doing a placement year was to really discover what an actuarial career was like and to see if it was definitely for me. I have found it to be a challenging, varied and interesting career which is exactly what I want to find in a graduate job next year.

I also now understand that there are more ways to get a career as an actuary than simply through getting accepted onto a graduate scheme. The actuarial profession is becoming more and more recognised. Many companies are realising that they need actuaries, so there are lots more roles for new graduates in this industry.

I have made a lot of fantastic contacts through working with SCOR and I hope this will help me in my future career.

What I learnt

I have learnt a huge amount from my placement year which will undoubtedly help me in my final year of my degree. My IT skills have developed significantly through my daily use of the statistical programming language R, as well as Excel and SCOR’s specific model forecasting tools.

My communication skills have also improved. I spent half the year working fully in French and the second half in touch with my team in Paris. As I was the only member of my team based in London for the latter half of my placement, I had to communicate effectively with my supervisors and ensure that I was carrying out my role properly. My role required me to make a lot of presentations, which was something that had always scared me. Now I feel much more comfortable doing this in a professional setting.

I also learnt how to successfully manage my time and work to tight deadlines. This was especially important during the company’s validation period where I had to help write up the formal validation report of my findings.

Was it worth it?

Although it’s hard work both to secure a placement and throughout the placement itself, it provides the most rewarding experience. You can develop yourself on both a personal and professional level. The knowledge I’ve gained will help me in my final year at university and in my future career. I learnt a lot about myself, and been able to make some lifelong friends.

I could not more highly recommend doing a year in industry. Even though there may be setbacks along the way, I would encourage everyone to keep pushing. It will be completely worth the hard work for the experience that you will gain.

My year in industry has definitely changed me and my perspective, as I have experienced “the real working world” for the first time. It has made me much more mature and independent, being the youngest person working in the company. I would love to live and work abroad again in the future.