Caleb Tarzwell - Manager, Actuarial Services and Risk Modeling at PwC

Caleb Tarzwell - Manager, Actuarial Services and Risk Modeling at PwC

How long have you worked as an actuary?

I've been an actuary for seven years.

Which markets have you worked in as an actuary?

I've worked within the Canadian investment superannuation market and then in the New Zealand/Australia life insurance industry.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To fly.

What factors do you believe influence the impact actuaries can have within their organizations?

I think the biggest factors are having the support to pursue new ideas and having a good attitude about things that don’t work out. What’s great about being at a startup is the ability to try something new and depending on whether it works, you can learn from it, make it better, or do something different entirely. So, I think that level of support and the agility to make changes quickly is quite important. And then I think the toolset is very important. That will vary from role to role and company to company.

What are the key impacts do you believe actuaries should be looking to have on the business when delivering insights?

I think it depends on what part of the industry they’re in, but I think actuaries have a unique ability to give a financial measurement of risk to a really wide variety of industries. In doing that, we can help companies make better informed decisions while taking into account previously unknown or unmeasured factors.

What are some key ways you see the actuarial profession evolving in the next few years?

I think it’s going to become much more collaborative with other professions, particularly data scientists and software developers. I envision a big move where data science gets incorporated into the actuarial exam process. And while it would be quite elite for actuaries to become data scientists, I think it’s reasonable for actuaries to become proficient in data science applications in insurance, superannuation, or finance.

Despite there being significant collaborative potential between data science and actuarial science, the two expert fields don’t always mesh in insurance. How do you believe they can work together more successfully?

A common understanding of each other’s backgrounds will certainly help improve communication and team membership. I can see that the actuarial profession is trending towards equipping young actuaries with the tools that they need to understand and learn from data scientists.

I think both contribute something really important and unique and that one of the best things that actuaries can bring to the table is that pragmatic business actuaries have had for a very long time, regardless of the application or sector of insurance. I think actuaries need to divert from the focus that things need to be perfect and instead ensure we have something that gives us insights, is usable in our assumptions, and improves our customer understanding. The pragmatic, business focus is something actuaries can really lend to data scientists. 

Conversely, I think data scientists have a lot of tools and a lot of knowledge that haven’t been readily applied in any of the traditional actuarial sectors. So having that fresh approach and those skills will help bring new approaches and tools to traditional actuarial sectors.