Caveat: I am in a startup so my answer may not reflect the standard industry practice. I work for a consultancy that does non life insurance pricing.
Not as big picture as your education prepares you for- most of your day is spent using the tools leaving very little time or inclination to see or understand what you have produced or its implications!
Most things you'll work on will relate to just one-two chapters in one subject! (differs from whether that is life/non life). But you'll know that stuff inside out.
The profession demands and stands for a lot- there are a lot of standards you have to maintain for data, modelling and reporting, which sounds like a lot of faffing. Yet, all of this stuff is taken quite seriously. We ain't no cowboy bankers..
90% of your time is spent on excel and access (caveat applies here)
The systems themselves are quite nice and robust and involve fair application of your studies.
Most good 'technical' work is happening somewhere else (US/Europe insurers, Deloitte consulting have very good technically sound work) By this I mean say complex modelling in R/SAS/SPSS.
Balancing studies with work is very hard! On most weekdays I am in office studying from 17:00
to 21:00. Weekends are for studying as well, as are study leaves (duh!). Going out with friends restricted to an evening a week at best. Your social life takes a complete beating.
The pressure to clear exams is high- salary increments, growth within the organisation and your own aims are tied to one exam on one day six months from now. And then another. And then another. And then another.
I'd say most of our studies prepare us to work hard and get comfortable with numbers, and get our basic theory right. This theory helps us create the models and the processes- but not understand the output of such models as much- most of this involves some common sense (pricing actuaries need this a lot)
Each situation is quite unique in a consultancy- clients want to know which risks to take on, how much to price another risk at, whether to renew a policy or not, how to find reserves needed against a policy, why their loss ratios are going up etc. Insurance sounds like the most boring field ever and is associated with tired agents mostly- but actually it's a very interesting field to be in when you're comfortable with numbers and some business.
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