29th March 2023
Asta is committed to ensuring that the best and brightest people are attracted to our industry and encouraged to build a rewarding career in insurance. That’s why we offer a range of opportunities for young people to work with us and gain invaluable experience. We sat down with one of our Undergraduate Placements Jamie Waplington to find out more about them, what they’d been doing, and how much they’d learnt during their time with us.
Where do you go to university, and what do you study?
I’m in my third year at Bath, where I’m studying Physics. I’ve always enjoyed Maths but chose Physics as, in addition to the theoretical side, it also gives the opportunity to get involved with lots of interesting practical experiments.
What attracted you to the Asta Undergraduate Placement?
I was going to do the study abroad year but decided I’d rather do something more practical and get some work experience. I didn’t know much about what it’s like to be an actuary or what an actuary does apart from what I had been able to research online. However, I knew I wanted something that would allow me to use some of the skills I’ve learnt on my course. I think what interested me about Asta specifically was the variety, and the fact that you get to work on many different syndicates. You get to learn so much here. I was also intrigued by the Lloyd’s aspect – it was a completely new area to me.
What type of work have you done during your placement?
I have been able to get involved in a range of different activities so far at Asta, across the main actuarial work areas of reserving and capital modelling. A particular project I spent a lot of time on was a new Lloyd’s capital modelling process for newer syndicates, where the managing agent (Asta) is a lot more involved than previously. It was great to be able to get involved in a new process – setting up the calculations, feeding them into the model within a governance framework, getting them approved by the clients and submitting to Lloyd’s. I was also involved in dealing with any questions people may have had on the process, both internally at Asta and from the syndicates.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced during your placement?
There were tight deadlines on the capital modelling project I was working on, which challenged me and enabled me to work on my time management skills and efficiency. This was initially daunting, but due to the efficiency and focus of the team, we were able to finish in good time with minimal issues. On a different note, it was also challenging initially to go from the somewhat less structured days at university, to getting up early and working from 9-5, but I believe this has enabled me to build positive habits which I can take with me into my final year of university. Being around halfway through my placement, I’m really excited to see what new challenges and opportunities I’ll encounter at Asta in 2023!
How would you describe the culture at Asta?
Culture is important to me – I’ve worked in cafés and restaurants, but working in an office is very different. I like the size of Asta, being a relatively small company, as I can walk around the office and know who everyone is. I prefer this to the idea of being somewhere where they take a dozen interns on a structured programme, as I feel less like an intern and more like a ‘proper’ member of the team. This responsibility has enabled me to challenge myself, grow and develop my understanding of the work, making me feel like a valued member of the team. In fact, I am very pleased to have been offered a permanent role at Asta for when I finish my degree (which I have gladly accepted!)
It’s good to feel part of a close-knit team and I instantly felt at ease. At first the work seemed a little overwhelming since there was so much to learn, but I was encouraged to ask anyone for help. Even though the work can be intellectually challenging, there is a strong culture of problem solving and working together. Everyone is very friendly and there are plenty of social events throughout the year.
Any advice to students considering an placement in insurance?
Firstly, I would say – go for it! My placement has been an invaluable way to gain some hands-on experience in the insurance industry and it has enabled me to apply the technical skills I’ve learnt in my degree to my everyday work. Completing a placement also provides a great advantage when looking for a graduate job, as it gives an incredibly detailed knowledge of the industry and the work – which is a big head start in any application process.
Be keen to learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You really do get out of it what you put in. I find it really rewarding to get properly stuck into a piece of work and come out with a good understanding of what I’ve been doing. I’ve really enjoyed seeing my knowledge develop throughout the year, which wouldn’t have happened had I not been keen to ask questions, do some research and take work on.
Coming straight from university to working in a professional environment can feel overwhelming at first, and it’s natural to initially feel out of your depth. But at Asta, everyone in the actuarial team made me feel so welcome and were always willing to help with any questions or concerns I may have had, which made a huge difference.
What are your interests outside of studying and working at Asta?
I’m really into music. I used to play saxophone and guitar although now it’s mostly guitar, as it’s a lot easier to pick up when I get home from work. And living in London it’s good to be able to go and have a drink with some friends where there’s some live music on. At university I’m a member of the Snow Sports Society, and they do lots of dry slope stuff and some racing. I’m planning to go on their ski trip again next year. I also follow Arsenal – it’s good to see them do well for a change.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I always thought I’d like to work in the City but I had no idea at what, but since coming to Asta that’s changed. In five years’ time I’d love to be continuing my journey in the actuarial profession – maybe with a few of the actuarial exams under my belt!
What book are you reading?
I’ve just started ‘Dune’, Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel. It’s big, it’s thick and it’s old, and a good book for someone who likes physics. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to my Mum – I’m not sure it’s her cup of tea!
Who do you admire the most?
Stephen Hawking is up there, both in terms of his ground-breaking work in physics, and how he was able to achieve all he did despite his hugely challenging diagnosis. I also admire some of the great guitarists – Jimi Hendrix came straight to mind, and John Mayer is an incredibly good musician. He writes songs that are really hard to play – if I ever think I’m getting good, I just try and learn one of his songs!
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