What’s the reaction generally from people when you tell them you are an Actuary?
They’re often still confused! I usually describe an Actuary as similar to an accountant, which isn’t quite true but our role is so broad that it’s hard to describe in one snappy sentence. I think a lot of people do actually know someone that is an actuary, so they have a pretty good idea. Actually, I remember the Institute of Actuaries used to give you a little card, like a credit card, that described what an actuary does! It was a brilliant idea if you got fed up explaining what you did for a living, you didn’t even need to describe the role, you could just show them the card!
How did you end up doing what you do? Has someone in your family trodden the path before or was it completely new?
It was completely new in my family. But I wanted to be an actuary from an early age, which might sound strange. My friends at school really liked the careers room and we’d often spend lunch there – so at age 12 I was flicking through the careers book, starting with the letter A. I soon got to Actuary and it was described as the second highest paid profession (on average) and involved maths, my favourite subject, so that was me sorted. My friends were also interested in looking for new jobs, but I think I was the only one that decided what I wanted to do so early. It helped knowing what I wanted to do from such a young age as it gave me focus and allowed me to choose subjects that would be helpful in my future career.
Eventually I ended up doing an Actuarial Science degree at City University (as it was known back then) in London. It’s now Bayes Business School and was one of the only places you could be exempt from the first series of professional exams at the time, which was worth doing.
So, did you surprise your family and friends by going in this direction of career choice?
I think my friends were probably a bit surprised, I mean, the fact that I’d found something so fast and just decided to do it, when 5 years later they still weren’t sure what to do!
It sounds like you’re very driven and self-sufficient in terms of your career, but were there any external influences from home or professionally?
I think what probably helped me out the most was, when I was around 5 or 6, my mum gave me maths lessons at home. She said that school had told her I was a slow learner, and at the time she would have liked to have been a maths teacher, so she ended up teaching me. I can’t really remember it to be honest, but it must have given me a real boost!
Your mum sounds amazing, do you think maths is in the genes then?
Maybe, although my sister runs a mile from anything mathematical – but then she didn’t get the extra help that I had.
Now I know that you went on maternity leave during lockdown, can you tell me what that was like? Did you ever go to work in the office?
I’ve only ever been into the office occasionally because it was always meant to be a remote job, which has been great for a work-life balance. That’s another thing you get from Zenith, working from home, which is one of the reasons I chose to work for them. But yes, lockdown was really strange because the point when I could announce my pregnancy was the end of March 2020 when we had just entered lockdown – no one from the outside world really saw my baby bump! You think, do people know I’ve had a baby?! It’s been very strange for my daughter as well, she’s very clingy now, since she’s hardly seen anyone else.
How did you feel about returning from maternity leave?
I haven’t met a parent yet who has looked forward to it returning to work and I’m no exception! There are lots of new faces at Zenith due to growth and I felt nervous about how things might have changed in my absence. A quick chat with our CEO Scott before my return made me comfortable and ready to go back, which started with a few days away with the team – a fantastic way to get to know everyone and have some fun before a full return to work!
Zenith’s growth has meant some structural changes and we now have a leadership team, which I’m pleased to be part of. My role is leading the consulting side of the business which is my passion, as “each day is different and every day is new” (from a song my son sings at nursery!).
What type of consulting projects do you and the team get involved in?
Consulting services to both our outsourcing clients and the market in general is a growing part of our business. It is focused on adding value and supporting our clients to grow via, in particular, product development, capital management and balance sheet optimisation, fund restructures, M&A and wider strategic support. Building on a number of client engagements we are also increasingly supporting clients with IFRS 17 implementation and general financial reporting data, reporting, systems and process improvements. With our enlarged team of senior and experienced actuaries, senior financial analysts and graduates we can flexibly structure project teams with a wide range of experiences and expertise.
I am really excited to be leading this team and further growing this service offering.
What were you doing before you joined Zenith and how did you end up working for them?
I joined Zenith in April 2019 and before that I was contracting at Royal London, where I met Scott, who was contracting as well. To be honest, we met by chance there and when he started up Zenith, he hounded me to join too. The rest is history!
You said a big advantage of Zenith is working from home, but how does it compare to other companies, what’s the culture like there?
At Zenith, everybody knows everybody, we’re a team made up of nearly 30 people, and all the people I work with have become so familiar and are so nice. The environment is very collaborative rather than competitive, which makes a really great atmosphere to work in.
Everybody wants to drive the company forward and help each other; I’d happily pick up the phone to any one of my colleagues. Most of the team work remotely, so we have a morning call each day to share what’s going on and see some real faces, and to celebrate achievements small and large. It can be a bit corny but it’s a nice touch.
I love working at Zenith as it has a vibrant and energetic feel. Everyone is different but fabulous and we have great respect for each other. I really value working somewhere where you’re appreciated as an individual and there is that personal touch so they can be more flexible to meet your needs and you can meet theirs – whether that’s where you work, which hours/days of the week are worked or something else. Zenith also seek and welcome ideas from everyone in the business, whatever level they are at – anyone can have a great idea and the best ideas may seem daft at first. I know that Zenith will do what it can to support me through any non-work issues too, it’s a very caring organisation to work for.
So, I know you’ve got two kids, but before children, what did you do outside of work?
I used to cycle a lot. A few years ago I went on a cycling holiday to Majorca and cycled one of the Tour de Yorkshire routes which was over 100 miles of extreme climbs! Running has been a big part of my life too, I used to run 30-60 miles a week and I’ve done the Chester Marathon in a very respectable time. Since having kids I don’t get time for cycling, but working from home is a huge plus because I can go for a run at lunchtime. When the kids are a bit older, I’ll hopefully get back into the cycling as well.
Ok, final question, if you could invite any 3 people for dinner, who would you invite?
To be honest, I’m not really into celebrities and my world is quite small. But with lockdown and everything, I think I’d choose three of my closest friends, since I haven’t seen many of them in so long. If I could choose who to cook the meal though, it would have to be Michel Roux Junior. He’s a big runner so we could swap marathon stories and he could cook me anything and I’d be happy!