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Mortality Research Steering Committee: priority research areas

One of the main responsibilities of the Mortality Research Steering Committee (MRSC) is to steer the Profession’s research relating to the demographic risks of mortality, morbidity and longevity. We have reviewed what we believe should be the priorities for research activity and have identified six areas.

1. Predicting future population mortality improvement

The IFoA (through the CMI) provides the Mortality Projections Model, which is a world-leading model that smooths recent trends in mortality and blends it into projected long-term mortality improvements. However, there is no equivalent robust and reliable method for deriving plausible population mortality improvement assumptions from more discrete data sources (such as a cause of death data), necessarily supported by subjective judgements. The MRSC wants to see a methodology created that does this, and our current approach is to use a bespoke multiple cause of death dataset provided by the ONS.

2. Forecasting trends in morbidity

Forecasting morbidity is currently a difficult task, as morbidity trends are complex, influenced by changes in the biological incidence of diseases and affected by changes in diagnostic techniques. We want to improve the understanding of these trends and their interactions to help maintain access to protection products serving a strong consumer need, and also provides richer insights into mortality and longevity trends.

3. Supporting the profession's efforts to resolve the challenge of providing older age care

In recent years the UK population has aged significantly and is expected to continue to age in the future. As a result, the number of people requiring good quality care has increased but the provision of the required care has not met the needs of society. The solutions that the actuarial profession can devise may help to address this issue and the MRSC can contribute to this.

4. Managing risk in products providing longevity protection

The risk management of longevity is still in its infancy and there are a number of aspects that could improve this:

  • Creation of an industry standard definition of all the risks behaviours underlying longevity risk.
  • Development of a method to benchmark the output of different risk models used by individual companies using this standard definition.
  • Identification of new ways to reduce risk using this standard definition to identify the intrinsic and avoidable risks.
  • Consideration of the differing longevity risk exposures of different kinds of beneficiaries

5. Tools and techniques used for analysing portfolio experience

The potential tools and techniques available to actuaries to analyse portfolio experience continue to evolve. Actuaries need to look beyond the traditional methods to decide what might best serve their clients. The following areas would benefit from investigation and communication to the actuarial community:

  • The potential new sources of data that can be used to enhance the assessment of portfolio experience.
  • The increased range of analyses that areas such as data science are bringing to the actuarial toolkit.
  • The assumptions being made by traditional and new techniques, and whether these are reasonable in the uses made by actuaries.
  • The relative advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, technically but also as regards interpretability and ease of implementation.

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

Longevity, mortality and morbidity risks are complex and simplistic measures, such as expectations of life, do not provide reliable metrics for non-experts to base decisions upon. New means of communicating this complex behaviour are required that better serve the needs of stakeholders.

We have started to work on advancing the six areas above and we will publish any research and outputs on these areas via the IFoA website.

In October 2019 the MRSC held a Stakeholder Event. This included discussion of the MRSC’s six priority areas as well as discussion of alternative priorities. A summary of the discussions is available on the stakeholder event page.

We would welcome any further feedback or comments on our research priorities. Please let us know any comments at

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Events calendar

  • Autumn Lecture 2020: Professor Elroy Dimson

    Online webinar
    14 October 2020

    Spaces available

    Many individuals and institutions have a long-term focus, and invest funds for the benefit of future generations. Their strategy should reflect their long horizon. University endowments are one of the oldest classes of institutional investor, and I will present the first study of the management of these endowments over the very long term.

  • GIRO Conference 2020 Webinar Series

    Available to watch globally in November.
    02-13 November 2020
    Spaces available

    This year's GIRO has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the general insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's GI Online Learning Resource area.

  • Life Conference 2020 Webinar Series

    16 November 2020 - 27 November 2020

    Spaces available

    This year's Life Conference has been re-designed as a virtual conference to offer members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the life insurance field via online webinars. All sessions will be recorded and made available to purchase and re-watch post-event on the IFoA's website.

  • Spaces available

    The webinar will discuss the challenges and opportunities schemes face in evaluating end game options, choosing a target state and understanding the impact this strategic decision could have on member outcomes long after the “end state” is reached. Adolfo, Kevin and Rhian bring over 60 years of experience in the industry and a variety of perspectives as scheme actuary, covenant adviser, trustee, de-risking adviser and insurer.

  • Spaces available

    Cash-flow driven investing is a game-changer for DB pension funds navigating their end-game. Suitable for sponsors who want to reduce risks on their balance sheets. And for trustees, it shifts the focus to providing greater certainty of returns, managing funding level volatility and ensuring they have enough income to pay cash-flow requirements.

  • Spaces available

    The talk will provide an understanding of the priorities and relationships between deficit reduction contributions, in the context of wider scheme funding, and different types of value outflow from the employer based on the working party’s recently published report.