Associate Director, Retirement
Segment Human Capital and Benefits
Location Reigate, United Kingdom
Year hired 2013
University/Degree University of Nottingham, BSc Mathematics
Personal skills or interests:
Learning Japanese, travel and playing with my French bulldogs.
Can you tell us about your history with Willis Towers Watson?
I joined Willis Towers Watson in 2013 on the Consultant graduate scheme at the London office. Early on, I spent a lot of time attending training sessions, studying for my exams, getting to grips with the world of defined benefit pensions and climbing the steep learning curve. I qualified as a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in 2017 and around the same time I began taking on more responsibilities at work. My role shifted to focus on advice specifically for corporate sponsors of pension schemes, and I also took on some additional roles including being a committee member for the UK LGBT+ colleague Inclusion Network. I now support Scheme Actuaries and Lead Consultants to provide advice, ranging from funding to de-risking for a range of pension schemes that vary in size from tens of millions to several billions, including multi-million pound projects which span a number of years.
Can you tell us about the day-to-day responsibilities of your job?
Truly no two days are the same. Given the unique challenges that face each of my clients, the work we carry out and advice we provide is never the same between project to project which keeps us on our toes! A typical day for me will involve responding to emails and phone calls from colleagues, other advisers or clients, attending meetings either in person (before COVID-19) or over the phone, and reviewing or drafting advice, usually with a calculator in one hand and a red pen in the other.
What else are you involved in other than you day-to-day role?
I’ve had a number of opportunities including managing interns and developing the graduate training programme, but my most recent has been leading the events arm of the UK LGBT+ Inclusion Network. The network has gone from strength to strength: we now have over 750 members and run several events a month, ranging from networking events to fund raising and movie nights. I also love being involved in organising coffee breaks for my team and hosting virtual quizzes to provide a much needed break during the day.
What are the key challenges of your role? How have you overcome them?
The two biggest challenges I most commonly face are time management and stamina. While many of our projects have long-term timescales, there can be unexpected hurdles which mean you need to be flexible and manage your time well in order to successfully meet your client commitments. Stamina is also critical as you can quite often have busy days, weeks or months, whether it’s speaking to several clients a day or tackling multiple complex mathematical problems, so you need the endurance to keep going. Personally I find being diligent at taking regular breaks to be the main starting point for avoiding burnout and maintaining stamina.
What training and development opportunities have you enjoyed as a result of your role at Willis Towers Watson?
The graduate training programme for Retirement graduates is second to none. Coming from a teaching background, even I was blown away at how developed the programme was. It has since been further developed but for me, it was incredibly expansive, including a series of training modules that took place over a number of days, with a combination of written exercises, role-plays, practical and soft skill training and more.
However, possibly the most valuable training is what I received on the job. Learning and development are instilled in our culture, and colleagues constantly provide guidance and training as part of the way we work together. In my experience, this is particularly true of our Senior Consultants who are always willing to impart their wise knowledge and offer development opportunities to junior colleagues.
What’s been one of your most exciting projects to date?
In 2018 I was working on a project winding up a pension scheme by securing members’ benefits within the insurance market. This is a typical endgame for pension schemes although not many are quite at that stage, but I observed that this scheme was getting close. I ran some projections looking at the feasibility of a future wind up on the lead up to a client meeting and shared them with the Senior Consultant who suggested I raise the topic at the meeting. This culminated in the sponsor and trustees of the pension scheme conducting a formal feasibility project, which then led to the scheme eventually winding up. This became one of the very first deals of its kind in the market due to the scheme’s hybrid benefit structure of a defined contribution and defined benefit pension scheme, and the deal tackled the inequalities of pension entitlements between males and females.
What is your proudest achievement since joining Willis Towers Watson?
My proudest achievement is qualifying as a Fellow and passing all of my written exams first time. I put this down to a combination of hard work and the support I received from Willis Towers Watson. Between the generous study package, allowing me to pick and choose the materials that worked for me, and the proactive visible support of colleagues encouraging me to take the time I needed to study, the company made sure I had all the tools and time I needed to give each exam my best.
How would you describe the culture at Willis Towers Watson?
Professionally speaking, we have some of the greatest minds in the field who are very open and collaborative, which makes for an incredible place to work, learn and grow. However, this doesn’t detract from the fact we are all human and can have fun – even some of the most seasoned actuaries in the office can be caught at the Christmas party busting some moves on the dancefloor!
What do you like best about working at Willis Towers Watson?
I really value being part of such an inclusive and diverse team. I had a preconceived notion that all large companies in the financial services industry would be very ‘corporate’ and that I wouldn’t be able to relate to this new type of environment. However, my colleagues are so open, welcoming and represent such diverse backgrounds and each bring something different to the table. I also appreciate the support the company has given me to move from the London office to the Reigate office in Surrey, particularly around retaining my desired client allocations but helping to identify new opportunities in Reigate. Since my move, I’ve found what I believe to be ‘the best of both worlds’ – I have the large clients and complex projects that comes from working at a leading consultancy, with the benefits of a quicker commute and more green space (which is perfect for taking my dogs on a walk during my lunch break).
Was there anything that surprised you about your role or the company?
I previously completed my teacher training programme and expected that it would be looked down upon as irrelevant. However, it has been a huge benefit and was noted favourably in my recruitment process. Given that my job as an adviser centers around guiding and explaining technical concepts to a less technical audience, my teacher training was an invaluable transferrable skill.
I was also surprised to find people with such varied interests – whether that’s baking TV shows, sports or roleplaying games, you’re bound to find someone who has common interests with you here.
What is your hope for your career in the future?
My hope is to continue climbing the career ladder and be supported by the amazing colleagues and leaders at the company, as well as to help my clients solve their problems and deliver positive outcomes for pension scheme members.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone considering employment with Willis Towers Watson?
You must! Take the time to find more out about the company and the role on the Willis Towers Watson website and reach out to the recruitment team to get your questions answered.