On Tuesday 15 October, I went to the office of Willis Towers Watson (WTW) in Purmerend to have a conversation with Erik Veerman (32). Erik Veerman works as a consultant at WTW in the field of ‘Pension Fund Risk Management’. During this interview we’ve discussed how Erik himself started to work at WTW, what the possibilities were that Erik received from WTW during and after his study, and what kind of work Erik does now at WTW. Also, some links are mentioned at the end of the interview when you’re interested in working at WTW (Dutch students) or have some further questions for Erik.
Who is Erik Veerman and how did you end up working at WTW?
Hi, my name is Erik Veerman, 32 years old and born and raised in the North-West of the Netherlands in the town named Volendam. After I graduated from high school, I started studying the Bachelor ‘Actuarial Science’ at the University of Amsterdam in 2007 and eventually finished my Master’s degree ‘Actuarial Science and Mathematical Finance’ in 2013.
During my first year of study, while drinking a beer in a local pub, I was approached by a fellow student with the question whether I was interested in working at WTW. I applied for a job at the WTW office in Purmerend and started as a student employee after my first year of study.
How did you combine doing the rather difficult study ‘Actuarial Science’ and your job as a student employee at WTW?
As a student employee you normally work two days a week. You can plan your workdays around your days at the university, so that you don’t have to miss important lectures.
I experienced that WTW attaches great importance to the development and education of junior- and student employees. This translates into an attractive study arrangement for example. But it also meant that my employer was very flexible with regard to scheduling my workdays. During exam periods or very intensive study periods, I could work less days. Since many colleagues also started as student employees themselves, they all showed understanding for that. Similar to this, during quiet study periods or vacation, I often had the possibility to work some extra days.
Because of this flexibility it was fairly doable to combine both studying at the UvA and working at Willis Towers Watson, and not to forget to enjoy the student life. Of course you still have to put in some effort to keep your study up to date. But off the record, I must confess that it took me a little longer than four years of studying ;).
How was the transition from student employee to fulltime employee at Willis Towers Watson?
The transition went very natural for me. I had already been working for some time at WTW, so I was familiar with the ways of working at WTW and integrated in the workflow. When I started working as an ‘Analyst’, I continued working for clients whom I already knew from my years as student employee. The biggest difference was the switch from parttime to fulltime work. But I didn’t say goodbye to the UvA immediately, because after my Master’s degree and my fulltime job, I continued studying and finished the post-master ‘Actuarial Practice Cycle’ to become a qualified actuary as a member of the Royal Dutch Actuarial Association.
What is your current position at WTW and what kind of work are you dealing with?
In my current position as ‘Consultant’, my daily activities consist mainly of advising pension funds with regard to their actuarial policy. Briefly: how to manage liabilities and assets in a balanced way. This also involves all kinds of actuarial calculations, such as valuation of liabilities, performing forecasts, but also data analysis.
Furthermore, I support pension funds in the field of integral risk management. This involves, among others, the identification and assessment of both financial and non-financial risks. What risks are we exposed to, how big are those risks and how can we manage those risks so that exposure is at an acceptable level. In this role I also participate in meetings of risk committees for a number of pension funds.
The nice thing about this kind of work is that it is not only about hard numbers, but also about all kinds of non-financial topics, such as risks related to cybercrime, climate change, fraud, and many more. Also risks change continuously, because the world is changing all the time. That makes my work very versatile and I like that.
Do you think that working as a student employee during your study helped your professional career and/or study career?
Definitely. As a student employee at WTW I had the opportunity to work with some of the best professionals and to develop my technical knowledge, analytical skills and soft skills through learning on the job. I also had the opportunity to follow various trainings, courses, seminars and fun activities and had a coach and people manager that guided me in my personal development. This all gave me quite a head start when I joined WTW as fulltime employee. Looking back over the past years from where I stand now, I strongly believe that I have really benefited from my years as student employee.
I also recall that I thought the study at the UvA was mostly dry - and a bit boring - theory (hardcore mathematics and statistics). At the end of my first study year I lost some motivation because of that. Working as a student employee gave me new motivation to continue and finish my study, because I saw that ‘in real life’ the actuarial work was much more practical and more diverse.
If people are interested in working at Willis Towers Watson after their study, or now during their study as a student employee, how could they get into contact with WTW (Dutch students)?
The best way is to just click on the following link and check it out.