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Actuaries and stereotypes

In this blog, Bradley Ashton, Actuarial Consultant at Barnett Waddingham, explains in his own words what an actuary does and how stereotypes aren't always as they seem. 

Hi, my name is Bradley Ashton and I work in the Insurance Consulting team at Barnett Waddingham. I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2015 and spent two and a half years at Aviva prior to joining Barnett Waddingham’s Insurance Consulting team. The purpose of this series of blogs is to shamelessly sell the actuarial career and to also provide prospective actuaries with some useful information along the way!

When you ask most people what an actuary does/is, you’ll be lucky if they have even heard the word, let alone be able to explain the things that they do. I certainly hadn’t heard of an actuary until I started researching careers during my time at university (it’s lucky it was close to the top of the careers A-Z I was reading at the time, or I’d have never heard of it). Those that have heard of us often have stereotypical ideas of actuaries; boring, no sense of humour, introverted. The list is endless. There is no denying that there are some of these “typical actuaries” about, but we aren’t all like that. You might understandably question my sense of humour on the basis of this blog so far.

If I had to try and explain what an actuary does in one small phrase, I would say actuaries quantify risk. Nearly all actuaries do this, directly or indirectly, in their day to day job. Examples include quantifying the risk of pension schemes not having enough money to pay its commitments, the risk of life insurance companies not being able to withstand severe economic shocks or even the risk of your pet cat getting ill.

As mentioned earlier, the aim is to provide a regular blog which will hopefully provide prospective actuaries with the information they need to make an informed choice about a career as an actuary. Some ideas for topics include:

  • Routes into the profession
  • Balancing studying with work (and hopefully a social life too!)
  • Practice areas within the industry
  • Current industry affairs

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please email