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Colin Lancaster ’09 interns with Brian Klimek ’91 at AXA Equitable

Colin Lancaster ’09 (Pottstown, Pa.), a mathematics and economics & business double major, spent his summer as an intern under the guidance of Brian Klimek ’91 of AXA Equitable insurance firm in New York City.

Over the summer, I interned as an actuary in variable annuity product development for AXA Equitable (formerly Equitable Insurance). Put simply, I worked on the technical analysis of annuities that AXA sells to determine things such as profitability, risk, and other such details. For those unaware, AXA Equitable is a branch of the AXA Group (very well known in Europe) and just recently became the most successful distributor of variable annuities in the U.S. Because AXA is headquartered in New York, I spent nine weeks in Manhattan, which is an experience that taught me a lot about myself. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about interning in New York, my impressions of living in the city, and working at AXA.

Since I grew up in suburbia and attend a small liberal arts college, the transition to living in Manhattan was jarring. I have not yet decided if I want to return to New York myself, but I can see why some people love it and some people hate it. AXA graciously houses its actuarial interns at Columbia University, which is only a couple of miles from the headquarters at 52nd Street and 6th Avenue. Even so, the commute was approximately 40 minutes door-to-door. The reason for this is that the morning and evening commutes are especially jam-packed, and the express trains are not necessarily convenient, depending on where you live. The trains are so busy that on bad mornings, you may be in a train car packed as tightly as sardines with a broken air conditioner. The trains are also not as efficient, frequent, or well maintained as, say, the Underground in London. The pollution was thick, and the busy streets and pushy people could often be overwhelming. New York certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

On the other hand, New York is a city that is as enriching as it is complex. While the property is small and expensive, the fact that everything is so close together eliminates the need for a car in most situations. Also, salaries are higher in the city, so the high costs are mitigated well. An intelligent design for the streets keeps you from getting lost in any part of Manhattan. Central Park gives a breath of fresh air and a wave of culture that provides great opportunities for hiking and relaxing. Food ranges from cheap to very expensive, and you can always find what you want within walking distance. Finally, a huge number of historical, artistic, and cultural sites make the city truly alive.

Lastly, working in New York is prestigious, and there is a feeling of being at the center of the business world. AXA was no exception, and the fact that the city is huge does not detract from the feeling of close-knit community in the workplace. The permanent employees were helpful and friendly, and the actuaries commonly took interns out for social events. One thing that pleasantly surprised me was that I enjoyed the company of every employee with whom I worked. I always felt that I was doing important work, and AXA took the development of its interns seriously while allowing us to find our own ways. While I had my ups and downs with the city, I believe that anyone with the opportunity should try living there. In addition, anyone interested in insurance or actuarial science should look up AXA Equitable, as working there was an excellent experience.

  • Internships/Externships
  • Economics and Business
  • Mathematics
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