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Consulting Firm versus Insurance Company

In this blog, Paul Tynan, a Trainee Consultant at Barnett Waddingham, weighs up two popular routes into an actuarial career: consultancy firm or insurance company. 

Consulting firm or insurance company? These potential routes into an actuarial career pose a major decision for any graduate with aspirations of becoming an actuary. Is there really any difference? As a final year actuarial student, this was the decision I faced. Having spent half a year at an insurance company as an intern I had some idea of where that path would take me. Consultancy work however, was more of a mystery. This blog discusses some the key differences between these two areas.

I knew little about working at a consultancy, other than hearing the less than favourable opinions on the time recording aspect of the job from others who had interned at consultancies. Having spent a long time deliberating, I eventually applied to a consultancy firm. The prospect of working with a range of clients and the greater variety of work was enough to convince me to apply.

Insurance companies offer insurance coverage to the general public and usually have their own in-house actuarial teams. Working in such a company can give you the opportunity to dive into a specific area of interest, if for example you would prefer to work in reserving rather than pricing. While insurance companies can provide opportunities to develop further skills through working alongside other departments such as IT and accounting, they can also allow for progression in specialised areas of expertise.

Consultancy firms, on the other hand, provide professional advice to an array of clientele. They use their expertise in the actuarial field to work alongside companies, which need assistance with actuarial work. Working with several clients provides the opportunity to work on a multitude of projects with a varying range of product types. This can be very helpful not only in furthering your understanding of the wider insurance industry but also keeps day to day work interesting with regularly changing assignments.

A career in consultancy can also help softer skills, as presenting to and building relationships with clients is a major part of any career in consultancy. Confidence in public speaking is an excellent skill to have and this is something you will certainly pick up at a consultancy. There is an emphasis put on this from day one with graduates encouraged to develop their ability with regular opportunities to chair team meetings and present to colleagues.

There is a general impression amongst graduates that consultancies demand longer working hours, making it difficult to pass the actuarial exams. I would say this depends more so on the culture within your company and from my experience, study days and general assistance with exams are relatively consistent across the two areas.

So what’s the verdict? While hoping to not sound too vague, it really does depend on your own preferences. Personally I have the ever so slightly biased view of preferring consulting, with its variety of work and learning experiences but if you find the more consistent longer term projects of insurance companies more appealing maybe you’d disagree.