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Data Science: Q&A with IFoA Member Patrick Lee

Patrick Lee has served both on the IFoA Council and IFoA Management Board, and is President of the Wessex Actuarial Society. Opinions expressed here are his own.
 

Patrick LeeYou’ve said that you believe there is much to do to ensure that IFoA members remain relevant in a world ever more dominated by data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Could you briefly explain why actuaries would do well to increase their understanding of these technologies?

Estimates vary, but in 2018 around a trillion megabytes of data was produced every day.  Some of this data will be very valuable, and so businesses and organisations will compete to extract value from it. The actuary’s traditional toolkit, however, has not enabled understanding of how large-volume data of very different types (such as social media) can be processed for actuarial purposes. So at a bare minimum, actuaries need to know the key concepts of data science.

Actuaries also must understand – and add value in – the ongoing conversations that business leaders will have with data engineers and data scientists.

You recently completed Microsoft Professional Programs for Data Science and for Big Data. What impact on their professional schedule can actuaries who are interested in these certifications expect them to have on their professional schedules?

Well, it took me 468 hours of part-time study over two years to complete both programs. The Big Data course took less time – 146 hours as compared to 322 for Data Science – because some courses were shorter, and I’d already taken three out of 10 courses on the Data Science program. I expect to complete the AI programme in July 2019 after about 150 hours study (I’d already taken 2 out of 10 courses on the other programmes).

So, that is an average of just over five hours study per week: a lot more than the IFoA’s minimum CPD requirements, but probably less than most actuarial students are used to! My experience is with the Microsoft courses, but alternatives are available. Some providers offer shorter courses which may be less comprehensive. There are also very different courses – e.g., on Google’s technology, including its TensorFlow open source software library which is highly regarded.

Do actuaries typically face any particular challenges with regard to gaining certifications in data science, in your view?

Actually, I think actuaries should have somewhat of a head start because they will already be familiar with material in the early courses on mathematics and statistics. Most actuaries should find studying via MOOCs refreshing, compared to their previous studies for actuarial exams. The exams are open book and so are not a memory test.  They should note, though, that some exams are timed, and there is, of course, an honour code. If you have taken comprehensive notes and completed the exercises during the courses, then there should be no problem.

What opportunities for career progression do you see for actuaries who add a knowledge of data science to their professional competencies?

It’s very hard to predict future opportunities. Google and parent company Alphabet claim that the impact on society from AI will be even greater than previous waves of transformation – including the internet. I’m convinced that to prosper, actuaries need to embrace the new technologies. They will be able to add most value by synthesising: combining a good understanding of big data with their financial and business insights, and their communication skills to help multidisciplinary teams get maximum value from data.

As I said earlier, being able to talk credibly about Big Data with business leaders will become an essential skill to command influence at board level. Also, greater opportunities will arise for actuaries to work alongside data scientists and data engineers, as organisations set up data analytics departments to enhance competitive advantage. 

Your career experience includes the areas of pensions and investment practice. Are there specific areas of actuarial practice where data science will find greater application?

To prosper, businesses – and that includes industrial ones – will need to add significant software and analytics capabilities. The avalanche of data that will need to be analysed offers unprecedented opportunities for actuaries to move into wider range of fields. According to AI expert Bernard Marr, there are three key AI use-cases for businesses: first, change the way they understand and interact with customers; second, offer more intelligent products and services; and third, improve and automate business processes.

These use-cases require the efficient collection and analysis of data, along with problem solving, cost benefit analysis and deciding whether an effect is genuine or merely accidental or random. So, in short, opportunities galore for actuaries!

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Events calendar

  • Life Conference 2019

    The Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1
    20-22 November 2019
    Fully booked.

    The Life Conference is the premier event for professionals interested in life insurance.  Offering a wide range of workshops and plenary sessions it’s the perfect opportunity to discover what’s hot and current in life insurance ensuring you get up to date on the latest thinking and innovation whilst meeting and exchanging ideas with a broad range of professionals.

  • KSS event: Climate change, ESG and what it means for Insurers

    PwC Edinburgh, Atria 1, 144 Morrison St, Edinburgh
    2 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Speaker: Pallavi Konwar

    Pallavi has a background in banking and asset management as well as within government. She started her career at Wall Street in New York, where she worked for Citigroup on mortgage securitisations and collateral analysis. Before joining PwC, she worked within the Infrastructure UK team at HM Treasury. where she was responsible for contributing to the National Infrastructure Plan and reporting on the performance and delivery of nationally significant infrastructure projects.

  • Autumn Lecture 2019, London - Dr Kay Swinburne

    Lincoln's Inn The Treasury Office, London WC2A 3TL
    2 December 2019

    Spaces available

    We are delighted to announce that Dr Kay Swinburne will deliver this year’s lecture, "It’s not all about the numbers – regulatory challenges for UK financial services post-Brexit"

  • SIAS Event: Discount Rates are Flawed

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    3 December 2019

    Spaces available

    This talk will be given by Jon Spain who, as far back as 1983, has been working independently, trying to bring “long-term” back to UK actuarial thinking. His current focus is on discount rates (see discrate.com).

  • A Holistic Study into Cash flow Driven Investment

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR, UK
    4 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Given that Cashflow Driven Investment strategy has attracted growing interests from pension funds and insurers at the backdrop of current market conditions and clients’ circumstances, the objective of this event is to gather thought leaders from asset managers, banks and insurers to offer attendees their perspectives and insights on main aspects of consideration when adopting this strategy.

  • Your Actuarial Career: Managing Career Breaks

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    5 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Maternity or paternity leave, sabbaticals to study or travel, managing care responsibilities or escaping unemployment – Join Chika Aghadiuno and a panel of IFoA guests including Liz Dimmock, Founder & CEO of Women Ahead (International), and Lee Faulkner, Financial Wellbeing Actuary, First Actuarial, to explore the issues around career breaks from the perspective of an employee and an employer.

  • Sessional Meeting - Silent Cyber Assessment Framework

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    9 December 2019

    Spaces available

    The (re)insurance industry is faced with a growing risk related to the development of information technology (IT). This growth is creating an increasingly digitally interconnected world with more and more dependence being placed on IT systems to manage processes. Note: Registration is from 17.30 in time for the sessional to begin at 18.00.

  • CPD Member Event in Shanghai, China

    Function Room, F39, S1 Fuson Group, the Bund Finance Centre, No.600 Zhongshang East 2nd Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai Chinese address:BFC外滩国际金融金融中心,S1复星集团,39层报告厅,上海中山东二路600号
    9 December 2019

    Spaces available

    The IFoA’s President-elect Tan Suee Chieh will visit Shanghai. We will host CPD and Awards Presenting event on Monday 9 December 2019. The event is part of Mr Tan’s first presidential trip to China.

  • Professional Skills Training - London (10 December 2019)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ  
    10 December 2019

    Spaces available

    This event will be of interest to students and recently qualified actuaries.

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020.  The content and discussion at this session is particularly tailored to actuarial students and newly qualified actuaries working in any area and the format is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions with your peers.

  • IFoA Joint Member Event with the Sunshine Insurance Group, Beijing China

    Room TBC, Kuntai International Plaza, No.12, Chaowai Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing 地址:会议室待定,北京市朝阳区朝外大街乙12号1号楼昆泰国际大厦
    12 December 2019

    Spaces available

    The IFoA’s President-elect Tan Suee Chieh will visit Beijing. We will co-host CPD and Awards Presenting event with the Sunshine Insurance Group on Thursday 12 December 2019. The event is part of Mr Tan’s first presidential trip to China.

  • ARC Sessional Research Event: Drivers of Mortality - Risk Factors and Inequality

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    6 January 2020

    Spaces available

    The authors will focus on a large dataset obtained from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) and related sources. Data are available at the level of Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) – small geographical areas with, typically, 1000-2000 residents and include death counts, exposures and a significant number of socio-economic variables including the index of multiple deprivation (IMD).

  • SIAS Event: My Journey to Data Science, Big Data and AI

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    7 January 2020

    Spaces available

    Patrick Lee is an actuary who has made the transition to working in software architecture and artificial intelligence (AI). He holds Microsoft Professional qualifications in Data Science, Big Data and AI and is currently working towards a DevOps (the automation of software testing and deployment) qualification. He is a member of the IFoA Council and is also President of the Wessex Actuarial Society. He is also a member of the IFoA and the RSS's joint Data Science Focus Group and will talk on the ethical use of AI. 

  • Spaces available

    This presentation covers the detail for how the matching adjustment is calculated. A small simple example spreadsheet is provided and discussed in detail.

    For actuaries wanting to get more involved with the matching adjustment, this is the opportunity to get a detailed description of the mechanics involved. This includes cashflows derisking, PRA tests as well as hypothecation.

    The presentation is provided by James Sharpe who has worked on a number of matching adjustment calculations with several firms.

  • IFoA Volunteer Recognition Reception

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR, UK
    15 January 2020

    Spaces available

    As a thank you to all our Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) volunteers, you are invited to join us at Staple Inn Hall, for an evening of drinks, canapes and networking, in London.

    IFoA President, John Taylor, will be attending and will make a speech

    If you support the IFoA as a volunteer (member or non-member), or in any other role, and you are going to be in London on 15 January, please book your place and join us at this reception.

     

  • Professional Skills Training - London (16 January 2020)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ
    16 January 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Sessional Meeting - Operational Risk Dependencies

    Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 9 Queen St Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    20 January 2020

    Spaces available

    The Operational Risk Working Party aims to assist actuaries and others in the modelling and management of operational risk. One of the key challenges in modelling operational risk is the modelling of dependencies between operational risks, and between operational and non-operational risks such as market, credit and insurance risk. Their paper seeks to assist in this regard, and help develop good practice in setting assumptions and modelling operational risk dependencies. 

  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (23 January 2020)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    23 January 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • KSS event in Glasgow: Public Sector Pensions

    Hymans Robertson, Glasgow 20 Waterloo St, Glasgow
    30 January 2020

    Spaces available

    – the unappreciated key assumption, the resulting unsustainable promises, the unmanaged risk and the unrecognised debt? 

    Speaker: Allan Martin

    Come to your local KSS meeting to discover your future tax paying liability, the massive intergenerational transfer you are making and consider your professional public interest undertaking.

  • ARC Sessional Research Event

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    3 February 2020

    Spaces available

    This sessional will be delivered by members of the research team working on the ARC “Big Health & Actuarial Data’ research programme, led by Professor Elena Kulinskaya (University of East Anglia).

  • Professional Skills Training - London (11 February 2020)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ         
    11 February 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Sessional: Impact of E-cigarettes Working Party

    Royal College of Physicians, 9 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    24 February 2020

    Spaces available

    This sessional meeting will be of direct interest to actuaries and others working in the in the Health and Care, Life or Pensions sectors or indeed actuaries with an interest in morbidity or mortality. Note: Registration is from 17.30 in time for the sessional to begin at 18.00.

  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (25 February 2020)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    25 February 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • IFoA Asia Conference 2020, Kuala Lumpur

    CCEC Nexus, 7, Jalan Kerinchi, Bangsar South, 59200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    24-25 June 2020
    Spaces available

    The sixth annual Asia Conference once again offers a prestigious line-up of home and international speakers discussing the insurance and financial industry’s innovation and change in Asia. This year's conference in Kuala Lumpur will be hosted by Tan Suee Chieh, IFoA’s first Asian President. He will also make his Presidential address at this conference and will expand on the important elements of IFoA’s new strategy. 

    Additionally, this landmark conference will showcase how the IFoA is reinventing itself to support its members to succeed and thrive in a digital age, within traditional businesses and beyond, as a global organisation. 

    No tot be missed by international industry players, opinion formers, academic and industry leaders, actuaries and non-actuaries.