Rebecca Brooks – current role with Intellica as a Senior Pensions Data Analyst. I’ve been working in the Pensions Industry for over 20 years and still enjoy the “day job”.
Why did you choose this profession?
It rather chose me – I returned home from College with my Degree in History and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I had a temporary administration role preparing documentation for Aircraft maintenance and a colleague recommended I send a letter to his partner and apply for a permanent role with London Life. I got the Junior Administration position and started working on Life Assurance benefits which were attached to DB Pension Schemes. I then chose to move into Pensions.
What attracted you to your role?
Initially the variety of a DB Pension Scheme, as no two DB Pension Schemes are the same neither were two manual calculations. I was interested in understanding pension schemes and the calculations, how to improve and automate. When I first started in pensions Annual Benefit Statements and Pension Increases were the only processes with calculation automation and not for all members. I spent a number of years in Administration, speaking to Pension Scheme members and Pension Scheme managers and completed the Chartered Insurance Institute exams to become an Associate. The interest I had in calculations and systems to support Pension Schemes led to a change in direction from Administration into Implementation.
The initial attraction in a move from Administration to Implementation was creating methodology to automate calculations, to improve the administration of Pension Schemes. Automation was driven by the need to speed up processing for members away from paper records and manual calculations, in addition the administration of a DC Scheme using paper records was prohibitive! The understanding that Data plays a vital role in any processing, whether Scheme Data based on the Rules of the Scheme or Member Data to calculate individual benefits, is and will remain of prime importance.
Throughout my career there has been changes in legislation impacting member benefits and the need to maintain more specific and complex member data. Pensions continues to be impacted by changes in legislation, there is always something new to consider, to develop, build, test and provide.
What are your main duties now?
With Intellica I use the knowledge and understanding of Pension Schemes gained in both Administration and Implementation to support the projects I am working on. The working day can include discussing Data Validation Checks and the SQL to test with Developers; creating test plans for Data Imports and Exports and reading Data Mapping and mentoring other colleagues; I can complete calculations to test automation or progress methodology in Excel; or I can provide internal guidance on pension schemes and attend client meetings to discuss options on the project requirements, potential for improvements and what Intellica can offer now and in the future.
Is it a 9 to 5 job?
The working day is usually 8 hours between 8 and 6, so you can start at 8 and finish at 4 or start at 10 and finish at 6 depending on personal circumstances and project requirements. Preference is for a regular daily pattern, however flexibility exists especially in more of an IT company, as we are not member facing there is no requirement to cover core hours to respond to member queries.
There is usually a weekly routine of client meetings and project requirements so the role does incorporate routine alongside variety of day to day tasks.
What skills are useful in this profession?
Mathematics is a useful skill if you’re in the pensions profession as an Administrator, Actuary, Auditor or even in a role as a Tester; however, English will be more useful if you’re in a pensions role which is project management or client facing and reporting. Any IT language will be a key skill in an industry which is using automation at an ever increasing speed, the provision, maintenance and interrogation of data using SQL and other languages will be a requirement now and in the future. For example, dashboards to display data relies on IT to interrogate data and the skills to build platforms to display results, mathematics to prove the information is accurate, English to ensure the data is easily understood by the recipient.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to enter the profession?
The pensions profession is long established, there is a history of change and developments which are still impact today. As mentioned the key skills for any sector or profession will be required for any role in the pensions profession. Then, when you’re in the industry, there will be options to fine tune and specialise, to change roles based on the personal preference of the individual and the career path they chose to follow. Personally, I am grateful for the path I followed from “falling into pensions” to the varied and fulfilling role I have now, however, the ability to accept that you will not know all the answers and be prepared to ask questions, to seek information and discuss options with others is a key attribute and a valuable piece of advice I use daily.