Q. Where do you go to university and what do you study?
OA: I’m an international student in my fourth and final year at the University of St Andrews studying Economics and Maths. I’m from Nigeria and a US citizen. St Andrews is beautiful and very much a student town. It’s by the sea so has a very nice atmosphere, and it’s small and quite tight knit compared to big city universities.
Q. What attracted you to the Asta internship programme?
OA: I applied to the 10,000 Black Interns Programme and we were given a number of options. I chose Insurance because I’m interested in risk and actuarial as a career. I was already a Maths student so I was doing stats, and this led to the actuarial thing. And in the summer of 2021, I was doing an internship with an asset manager, and my role was in equity research which involved analysing data and looking at where it’s coming from. And so I realised I’d get more exposure to this area by going into an insurance internship.
Q. What type of work have you done during your internship?
OA: Coming into Asta, I discussed my objectives to begin with and we landed on two. The first was to look at a training framework for a Project Manager, focusing on how to do a skills gap analysis, see what training they would need and research the available options.
The second objective was creating a page on the company Intranet site for Business Change, which hopefully is up and running now. There were also lots of side tasks, and the interesting thing was because I didn’t know what kind of work was more suited to my talents, doing a variety of things meant the role evolved over time and I was eventually able to focus on my real area of interest – data analysis. I got involved in Time at Work and Budget Analysis, so ended up doing a lot of data analysis as opposed to project management work.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge you have faced during your internship?
OA: To be honest, I don’t think I knew what Business Change was, so I couldn’t say I was surprised by anything. But it was interesting that I got to work on so many things because if the idea is supporting other teams to work more efficiently and solve any bottlenecks, you could do these things in many ways. So it was interesting I was able to do that in a way that suited my skill set.
The other thing I liked was the opportunity to learn. We were given a superb overall introduction to the insurance market, which is so important for interns to have. And I was always allowed to join meetings with teams where I got lots of exposure to different parts of the business as well.
Q. How would you describe the culture at Asta?
OA: I would say it’s very easy, if that makes sense. There’s not a lot of tension, so it’s very comfortable to walk up to anyone and ask a question. It’s an open floor and teams seem quite close together, so it’s very welcoming. It was a different feel to the asset management company I worked for – there they had quite high expectations, and were very formal with the interns. Asta is more relaxed and focused on whatever works best for you. It’s a very flexible place to work as opposed to ‘Here’s the structure and we’re sticking to it regardless’.
Q. Any advice for students considering an internship in insurance?
OA: One tip is always to apply as early as possible. I’m putting in job applications now for when I graduate and that gets you more opportunities – I think it makes you less stressed when deadlines are coming up.
Also, try to reach out to the people involved earlier. For instance, if you get an internship offer, go on LinkedIn, find out who’s on your team, reach out to them and ask if there’s anything they want you to look up before you come in – this approach will help to make the transition seamless.
Q. What are you interests outside studying and working at Asta?
OA: Some people might not classify this as an interest because it seems quite formal, but I really like teaching Maths. I’ve tutored one session every week since the beginning of 2021. Since my GCSEs, I’ve had a passion for understanding Maths because it’s one of those things that some people find difficult, but I believe that there’s no mystery to it. A lot of times Maths can seem abstract and unintuitive when it is, in fact, the most intuitive thing out of all the other subjects we learn. I have a real passion for helping people to understand that.
I’m also studying American Sign Language. I’m someone who likes variety, and when something is uncommon, it’s more interesting to me. Like when people learn languages, sign language is just a completely different form of doing the same thing. It’s interesting because it’s so different from the regular human experience of the speaking world.
I also knit to relax – if you’re doing something like Maths, you can get quite stressed when you’re thinking a lot about problems, and taking the time to create things is so satisfying.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years time?
OA: I was pretty decided on the actuarial path before coming to Asta, and although I enjoyed the variety of working in the Business Change team, I like actuarial work because it’s so challenging and complex, and you’re also working with different scenarios and clients, so there’s plenty of variety too. So in five years’ time I hope I’m working as an actuary somewhere in the UK insurance industry, maybe in London, Bristol or Edinburgh. I don’t know what it would be like to work in different sectors, so I’d be open to anything.