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2019 Mortality Research Steering Committee Stakeholder Event

On 29 October 2019, the Mortality Research Steering Committee (MRSC) held a Stakeholder Event to gather feedback on its six research priorities. Discussion at the event also covered alternative research priorities raised for consideration.

This webpage summarises the feedback from the event. It is our intention to carry out further Stakeholder Events to gather feedback in the future. If at any time you have feedback on our research priorities then please let us know at research@actuaries.org.uk.

Predicting future population mortality improvement

There was general support for the highest priority proposed by the MRSC with recognition that it was an ambitious challenge. Potentially the more important aspect for the stakeholders was the development of the methodology and consideration of the drivers underlying mortality improvement than the specific outcome of the methodology. A phased approach to delivery was viewed as preferable such that feedback could be sought in flight and that early sight of results could be gained.

There was a desire that any data and models produced should be available to the actuarial profession such that users can understand the assumptions and judgements being made and modify these if required for their own use. However, it was also recognised that this endeavour has the opportunity to expand beyond the data currently available and used by individual actuaries and non-publicly available data may provide important insight to enhance understanding in this area. The MRSC needs to balance these conflicting demands through the course of the development.

There were a number of concerns raised during discussion including:

  • What should be the output of the new methodology – a range of reasonable scenarios or a specific best view scenario of the MRSC?
  • How should the output be presented such that the intended usage by users is clear?
  • How might the output be misused or misinterpreted and how can this be prevented?

The MRSC shares these concerns and they will be regularly discussed throughout the development.

Forecasting trends in morbidity

There was general recognition that morbidity had not received the same level of attention as longevity in the past and in the future this will be a more important. As a result there was support for enhancing the knowledge and information relating to morbidity risk.

The discussions identified many important areas to be considered including the following aspects:

  • The areas of focus, such as mental health, where the research should be concentrated.
  • The consideration of the effect and changes in intervention methods as well as the underlying incidence and prevalence in the population.
  • The statistics and information that would be valuable to provide.

A key area for main attendees was the availability of data - whilst greater recognition of the existing data sets would be useful, as important is how accessing more interesting data sets might be achieved given the sensitivity of such data.

The consensus view seemed to be that it would be valuable if the MRSC could serve as a conduit for information in this area.

Supporting the Profession’s efforts to resolve the challenge of providing older age care

In resolving the care challenge the stakeholders felt that the MRSC should act as part of a larger collaborative effort involving bodies within the actuarial profession and without (such as Pensions Policy Institute, Age Concern etc). It was felt that focus on the potential data and analysis would be useful and specifically on the risk of requiring care. There were felt to be synergies with the morbidity priority and potential benefit from international comparisons.

This information could be useful in raising public awareness where the risk of care and underestimation of longevity may be impeding the recognition of the risk of requiring care. It could also be used to inform the development of public policy in this area.

Whilst it was believed the focus should be on the “demand” side of care it was suggested that awareness of the increasing issues with providing care (staff, local authority budgets, etc) would be important to ensure that any effects of this on demand would not be missed.

Managing risk in products providing longevity protection

Whilst a standard definition was viewed to be useful, there were concerns that it might be misused or misinterpreted – either to create a false expectation that this should be the form used by all companies or inhibit variations for specific companies that are better definition for their specific risk profile. The MRSC is conscious of this concern and recognises that the communication of the definition should aim prevent this from happening.

It was suggested that the perspective and benefit to consumers could be considered in the following two areas:

  • To increase understanding of longevity risk for non-insured individuals.
  • To suggest alternative risk transfer mechanisms other than annuities.

This would be an expansion of the scope and the MRSC will consider this once the output of this workstream becomes clearer.

Tools and techniques used for analysing portfolio experience

As this priority has been identified as a lower priority item and work on this is deferred until 2020 there wasn’t as much discussion on this area. However the following themes emerged from the discussion:

  • Techniques to link and utilise data from different portfolios to enhance the overall credibility of analysis and assumptions.
  • How should the approaches differ between companies with materially different sizes of portfolio and how does this affect the results?
  • Is there a role for the CMI to provide more tools and analytics for use by individual companies?

Communication of complex risk behaviours in ways that are easy to understand

As this priority has been identified as a lower priority item and work on this is deferred until 2020 there wasn’t as much discussion on this area. However the following key points were made:

  • Expectations of Life, for example, were agreed to be a potentially poor metric, often being poorly defined or misunderstood – so there is a need for this to be priority.
  • However, any development in this area should focus at least as much on the needs of the audience as on the complexity of the issue being communicated.
  • There was generally a preference for “real world” forms of communication over actuarial statistics.

Alternative priorities

There was a broad range of issues potentially raised which was useful for the MRSC to be aware of, but two common themes emerged:

  • Firstly, for the MRSC to encourage greater assessment of the UK within the broader international context.
  • Secondly, for the MRSC to look at specific areas to bring analysis of these to the attention of the profession. The particular examples raised were:
    • Climate Change
    • Influenza
    • Automation
    • Effect of economic performance upon mortality and morbidity

The former will be considered by the MRSC but with respect to the latter it is possible that these are potential areas of focus for future issues of the Longevity Bulletin.

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