You are here

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!

Filter or search events

Start date
E.g., 23/01/2020
End date
E.g., 23/01/2020

Events calendar

  • 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 will present this talk on 30 January in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. If you wish to register for another location please return to the Events Calendar.

  • KSS event in Stirling: Public Sector Pensions

    M&G Prudential, Stirling Craigforth Campus, Stirling
    30 January 2020

    Spaces available

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

    Speaker: Allan Martin will present this talk on 30 January in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. If you wish to register for another location please return to the Events Calendar.

  • KSS event in Edinburgh: Public Sector Pensions

    Hymans Robertson 1, Exchange Place, Semple St, Edinburgh
    30 January 2020

    Spaces available

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

    Speaker: Allan Martin will present this talk on 30 January in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. If you wish to register for another location please return to the Events Calendar.

  • The Great Risk Transfer – Breakfast briefing and launch event

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

    Fully booked.

     

    Launch of the IFoA’s 2020 thought leadership campaign The Great Risk Transfer. The campaign will examine the trend of the transfer of risk from institutions to individuals, and how people can be better equipped to manage the financial risks they now face. At this breakfast event the IFoA will launch a call for evidence on this topic.

  • Joint IFoA and SOAT Professional Skills Training event - Bangkok

    Thai Life Insurance PCL, 13th Floor, Meeting Room 13/2, 123 Ratchadaphisek Road, Din Daeng, Bangkok 10400, Thailand  
    7 February 2020

    Spaces available

    This session is jointly organised by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) and the Society of Actuaries of Thailand (SOAT).

    Video case studies will be selected from the IFoA’s 2019/2020 online content which covers a range of topics under an overarching theme of “A Trusted Profession”. This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Life, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

     

  • Cyber Risk Event

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

    Spaces available

    What do good cyber practices look like and, to what extent, can we as an industry implement these operationally and recognise these for underwriting?

  • KSS event: Where now for pensions?

    Royal London Group, 1 Thistle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DG
    18 February 2020

    Spaces available

    With a single party government at Westminster holding a comfortable majority, and with the first phase of Brexit complete, the potential for radical reforms of the pensions landscape is increased. 

    Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb discusses what changes we can expect to see in pensions including in state pensions, pension tax relief, automatic enrolment and the workplace pension landscape.

  • 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.

  • Spaces available

    Investors globally are embracing ESG but what does this involve and can ESG be measured? Louise Dudley, Global Equity Portfolio Manager at Hermes Investment Management will outline the taxonomy often used when talking about ESG (exclusion, screening, engagement, sustainable, impact, responsible investing), talk about the importance of stewardship and engagement, and showcase evidence to the question as to whether ESG adds va

  • KSS event: How is Scotland’s population changing and what are the implications?

    New Register House, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh
    5 March 2020

    Spaces available

    The National Records of Scotland (NRS) collects, preserves and produces information about Scotland's people and history to inform current and future generations - work that underpins the fabric of Scottish society and tells the story of our nation. This KSS talk will explore the following and other areas impacting Scotland’s changing population, and assess the potential implications of the changes:

  • Highlights of the Life Conference 2019 - London

    America Square Conference Centre, 17, One Crosswall, America Square, London EC3N 2LB  
    11 March 2020

    Spaces available

    This event will cover the highlights from last year's Life Conference 2019 held in Dublin. The Conference Committee has reviewed session feedback and has put together a high-quality technical programme featuring the best-reviewed sessions from the conference. Book now to ensure your place.

  • Board agenda: Why Responsible Investing, ESG, and Climate Change matters to Pension Funds, Companies

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London. WC1V 6DR, UK
    19 March 2020

    Spaces available

    Recent years have seen ESG, Climate Change, and Responsible Investing thrust onto the corporate agenda in every boardroom. The same also be said for pension funds. Expectations of how companies should respond are high and NEDs on Boards are expected to adapt and adjust their guidance to companies accordingly. What does this mean for Actuaries serving as NEDs and Trustees?

  • KSS event: A Cashless Society- Benefits, Risks, Issues and Developments

    Deloitte, 4th Floor, Saltire Court, 20 Castle Terrace
    19 March 2020

    Spaces available

    Speaker: Iain Collier, Chair of the CSWP

    The talk will look to cover the following: Progression towards a Cashless Society • Developments home and overseas • Benefits, Risks and Issues • Crypto Currencies and Central Bank Digital Currencies.

    There will be an extended Q&A session at the end of the event.

  • Spring Lecture 2020, Edinburgh - Vicky Pryce

    Assembly Rooms, 54 George St, Edinburgh EH2 2LR
    25 March 2020

    Spaces available

    What next in Economic Policy? Please join us for our annual Spring Lecture presented by Vicky Pryce in Edinburgh. Vicky is Chief Economic Adviser and a board member at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

  • Spring Lecture 2020: Live Streaming at Staple Inn - Vicky Pryce

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1 V 7QJ
    25 March 2020

    Spaces available

    This event will be live streamed from Edinburgh. 

    What next in Economic Policy? Please join us for our annual Spring Lecture presented by Vicky Pryce in Edinburgh. Vicky is Chief Economic Adviser and a board member at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

  • Spring Lecture 2020: Live Streaming

    Webinar
    25 March 2020

    Spaces available

    What next in Economic Policy? Please join us on 25 March 2020 for the live stream of our annual Spring Lecture presented by Vicky Pryce in Edinburgh. Vicky is Chief Economic Adviser and a board member at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

  • SIAS Event: CMI Update

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    1 April 2020

    Spaces available

    Following the release of the updated CMI Mortality Projection Model, CMI_2019, the CMI Mortality Projections Committee will lead a discussion on future mortality improvements.

  • Finance and Investment Conference 2020

    Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Pl, London NW1 4LE
    05-05 May 2020
    Spaces available

    Join us at this year’s Finance and Investment Conference in London that will focus on ESG. The environmental, social and governance (ESG) space is growing rapidly and increasingly moving centre stage. In many cases, it is now an essential part of policy and central to the way stakeholders make decisions for the long term to ensure retention of clients, manage risk better, and ensure more economically efficient and sustainable investment returns.

    ESG factors cover a wide range of areas reflecting how vital consideration of these factors are part of wider systemic risks.

  • 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

    Join us at the IFoA Asia Conference 2020 at CCEC Nexus, Kuala Lumpur where intellectual thought leaders, senior industry players, opinion formers, academics, actuaries and non-actuaries from across Asia and beyond are expected to attend. This year's landmark conference promises to an exciting one as our first Asian President-elect, Tan Suee Chieh will, as newly appointed president of the IFoA, use his presidential address to highlight the two key pillars of the IFoA’s emerging strategy:

    • the reinvention of the profession in terms of its skillsets and mind-sets so that we can thrive in an increasing range of domains in a digital age;
    • the widening application of actuarial science in achieving social impact and sustainability goals.

    We are also delighted to announce that the Honourable Mr. Lim Guan Eng, Minister of Finance, Malaysia, will be the guest of honour at this year's conference.

    Early bird registration is now open until 1 March.  10% group discounts are offered to a minimum of six IFoA members booking in a single transaction.  Limited spaces are available, so please sign-up early to avoid disappointment.