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Barnett Waddingham
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#StrongerTogether - actuaries and data scientists

Published by Cherry Chan on

'Stronger together’ is how I see actuaries and data scientists working together in harmony – it is not about Brexit or America’s presidential campaign!

The spread of computers and the Internet will put jobs in two categories. People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.
Marc Andreessen

I attended an actuarial conference in September 2016, at which there was ample ’fear’ that data scientists are taking away actuaries’ jobs, but are these concerns based on any substantiated truth? 

  • Yes - it is true that some data scientists have set out to disrupt the way actuaries have been doing their jobs for many years.
  • Yes - it is true that data scientists come with an armoury of new modelling techniques and have tools at their disposal that can replicate traditional models at a much faster speed.

So the threat would seem to be real, but is this something to be afraid of?  No, I think not.

As an actuary, I think we should be embracing these new ideas and learning from data scientists. We still have the advantage of having the domain knowledge and having established ourselves in insurance companies as their trusted advisors. More importantly, actuaries have the ability to learn new techniques!

To be successful in deploying and applying data analytics in insurance companies, you need a multi-disciplinary team, including data scientists, data architects/engineers and actuaries. This is the model that we are advocating at Barnett Waddingham – see diagram below, taken from our Head of Data Analytics, Michael Crawford’s presentation!

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
Elbert (Green) Hubbard

We are revolutionising the way we process and present data to our clients here at Barnett Waddingham. We are migrating the data processing into R or Python to minimise the spreadsheet risk, which also goes some way to reinforce my belief that Microsoft Excel spreadsheets may be a thing of a past in the not so distant future.

I truly believe that by working closely with our data analytics team, it will help us deliver a much stronger proposition to our clients. My parting thoughts on this are aptly summed up in a quote from Marc Andreessen who wrote the original browser, Netscape Navigator and who is now a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley:

If you’d like to know more about how we are applying data analytics at Barnett Waddingham or want some advice on how to set up your own team, please contact Cherry Chan (details below) or Michael Crawford at michael.crawford@barnett-waddingham.co.uk


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About the author

  • Cherry Chan

    Cherry advises a range of UK general (re)insurance companies and international captives on actuarial issues including statutory reserve reviews, reinsurance and insurance programme optimisation and Solvency II implementations. She also acts as Actuarial Function to a number of clients.

    View Biography

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