Student Stories: Advice from an ACII

02/10/17 09:00 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute

Student Stories

Patrick Dunne Geraghty ACII of Aviva earned his ACII designation in less than 12 months. We spoke to him to hear his advice on balancing studying towards an advanced qualification with the pressures of work and family life.


Tell us a bit about how you got into the insurance industry and your career path to date.

I started out as a Quantity Surveyor, having spent 6 years in the DIT Bolton Street with the last 3 years studying Construction Economics and Management part time. At the same time I was working as a QS in a Quantity Surveying and Project Management firm in Dublin.

The recession hit towards the end of my studies and eventually, I lost my job. There was the option to go abroad (like so many others) or stay and I chose to stay. I worked in sales after advice from a friend before a good opportunity came up to sell home insurance with a large personal lines insurer. This was my first introduction to insurance.

Later, I moved jobs to a Broker where I spent 2 years, after which an opportunity came up to work with Aviva in their Speciality Lines team. I took up the offer without hesitation and haven’t looked back since.

I am now working as Aviva’s Construction & Engineering Specialist.


Taking on the ACII is a big commitment. How did you reach this decision?

I’ve studied on and off throughout the years including degrees in Property and Quantity Surveying and I completed the Certified Insurance Practitioner (CIP) programme in 2015.

When I started in Aviva in 2015 the Speciality Lines Manager, Kieran Mulvey and Engineering and Contract Works Specialist at the time, Brian Gleeson gave me fantastic guidance. I was planning to undertake a masters at the time however with encouragement I chose to go down the path of the ACII. Along with those mentioned the Chief Underwriting Officer, Colin Ryan, Head of HR, Shaun McDonald and Aviva in general offered fantastic support.

I found that the ACII qualification naturally fit with my day to day activities. My experiences in work combined with the knowledge from the course blended very well. Study helped me understand new subjects in work and information learned while on the job helped me complete the ACII modules.

I had a goal to get into a Senior Underwriting position and longer term goals of becoming a Director of Underwriting/CUO/leading an Insurance organisation. I had looked at recruitment websites both in Ireland and the UK to understand what the typical qualifications required were. Again I found that for any relevant senior position in the future, I had to aim for the ACII/FCII/ Chartered Insurer designation.

I earned the ACII in 2016 and I’m currently one exam from completing the QFA. I have a plan to complete the FCII within the next 12 months.


Did you face any challenges along the way?

I wouldn’t consider myself as an A+ student, however I am determined to reach specific goals and learned over time that in order to reach these goals that they had to be broken down into bite size chunks. I had a specific goal in mind and set a challenging time frame of two years to complete the qualification. In the end I completed it in less than half the time.

I found that fitting study in to an already busy work/family life was challenging. At the time my daughter was only 2. To study and spend time with her was a balancing act.

I was learning a new role and that meant that there was a lot to take in and retain each day in addition to study outside of working hours. Many days involved putting in 10+ hours in the office followed by 3–4 hours of study per day Monday to Friday.

Trying to find time to study was challenging so I typically studied after my daughter went to bed, first thing in the morning and throughout each weekend.


What study strategies did you have?

I started out with an end goal in mind and set a tight time frame. I put a plan in writing where I listed out what credits I had at the time, how many more credits I needed to complete the qualification, what subjects interested me the most, what sequence I wanted to take those subjects in and set mini and major time goals to pass each subject.

I printed this out and looked at it each day while marking off each mini goal achieved and this kept me motivated. I knew at the beginning of each day/week/month what had to be achieved and what the milestones were.

Although I took on a heavy work load, I made sure to get make time to do something not work or study related each day.


What advice would you have for those trying to balance study with a busy work schedule and personal life?

Try not to do everything at the same time. Work is for during working hours, lunch is for lunch time, family time is family time and study time is study time. Try not to blur the lines.

My top 10 tips would be:

  • Put a study plan in writing – learn more about creating a study plan that works →
  • Have an end goal in mind and write it down. What is your own specific motivation for doing your qualification?
  • Spread study out evenly over a set but comfortable time frame and don’t leave it all to the last minute.
  • Create time objectives such as completing one chapter per week, or whatever fits your lifestyle. 
  • Complete project work/questions in the book early on as it helps longer term retention of information.
  • When it comes to exams I spent the last 1–2 weeks, in the lead up to the exam, practicing questions.
  • Use the online resources. Past or mock papers, and online lectures. They all came in really useful in
    preparing for an exam.
  • Get enough sleep! I had days where I was doing too much. It meant having to read over the same chapter to retain the information.
  • When you don’t understand something, ask for help. I got fantastic help from my colleagues in Aviva. A good support network is very important.
  • Take time off when you need it. There is no point studying when you feel tired or burnt out.


Thinking of taking on the ACII and wondering how many credits you need?

Talk to our Member Services team who will be able to point you in the right direction.