The Question 2.0 - Actuaries vs. Data Scientists

The Question 2.0 - Actuaries vs. Data Scientists

In the first round of The Question, we asked prominent members of the life insurance industry to share their views by briefly answering some thought provoking questions. For this new edition we are thrilled to introduce some new perspectives, including from Milliman Principal of Life Technology Solutions, Pat Renzi.

If you are interested in participating in The Question, please get in touch.

With the rise of technology and the growing popularity of data scientists as a profession, will actuaries become more or less in demand over the next 5-10 years?

I believe that data science will play an increasing role in insurance and in actuarial science. All actuaries will need to understand the importance and opportunities this provides, as well as the risks this introduces. Therefore, I think that the rise of technology increases the role and elevates the importance of the actuary within the industry. Actuaries need to take the lead in understanding how to best utilize technology and how to understand and manage the risks it could introduce.

- Pat Renzi, Principal of Life Technology Solutions, Milliman

The interesting thing about significant innovation and revolution is that it comes from ideas that have never been tried before. Tweaking what has already been done, based on the data emerging from the way it is currently being done, is unlikely to deliver either. Making a call about what is likely to happen if an idea is implemented, making decisions about what the downside risks could possibly be and how to mitigate those risks, and committing to an expected business case based on "instincts" is required. Finally someone needs to be brave enough to take the first step into the complete unknown. It is often actuaries who have provided their knowledge, opinion, support and encouragement to leaders that have led to the break through changes that leap frog the industry into the future. Actuaries will definitely still be required, but more for their thinking and educated guessing rather than their analyzing of existing data.

- Naomi Ballantyne, Chief Executive, Partner's Life

The general growth of data science as a profession might reduce the pool of new actuaries, which would impact supply. On the demand side, I would not expect any reduction. The role will change and evolve, and will probably be one of the leading candidates for a "person and machine" model of work, where a lot of the traditional number crunching and pattern recognition is handled by machine, and the role of the person is to provide insights, inform strategy, and apply creative thought.

- Conor Sligo, Consultant, Sligo Consulting

I think actuaries will be more in demand, not less; we've seen the power of a strong partnership between actuarial and data science at Haven Life and even have some people on both sides who can tackle both fields.  There may be a shift in some work from actuaries to data science (experience studies, assumption setting), but the result of this will be an increasing need for actuaries who can think strategically, deeply understand insurance and risk management, and can leverage data science solutions within their work.  That's the future of actuarial work.

- Mark Sayre, Head of Policy Design, Haven Life

Keep an eye out for the next installment, where we ask another burning question to our brilliant panel. Feel free to get in touch if you have an alternate view point, if you have a question you'd like included, or you're interested in participating in the next iteration of The Question.

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