You are here

Actuarial impact in data science

Colin Thores, Education Actuary, blogs about the The IFoA Certificate in Data Science.

The IFoA Certificate in Data Science has been developed on the basis of member feedback to equip actuaries with the technologies and methodologies of this emergent field.

Colin ThoresThe importance of data science has increased significantly in almost all areas of business in recent years – particularly in many of the areas that actuaries work in.

There has been a realisation amongst many members and employers that data science will – to some extent – shape the actuarial profession as we move into the 2020s.

The IFoA has been acutely aware for some time of the demand amongst members and employers for greater support in meeting this challenge.

In response to this demand, the IFoA has launched a number of data science initiatives, such as online media, webinars, seminars, workshops and members interest groups.

Particular successes have been the IFoA’s Data Science Summit in 2017, a strategic partnership with the Royal Statistical Society, and a very successful virtual conference in 2019.

As part of Curriculum 2019, the IFoA added some data science material to its fellowship examination syllabus, such as practical work in R, and the inclusion of some material on machine learning.

But the area has been given fresh impetus by IFoA President, John Taylor, who has made data science one of the main areas of focus for his 2019/2020 presidency.

The demand for more

Data science describes a large, diverse, multidisciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems to extract knowledge and insights from large data sets.

To achieve this, a combination of domain expertise – programming and software tools – with a knowledge of mathematics and statistics is required.

There are a range of data science resources available, but it can be difficult for members to access the information they need to develop their knowledge and understanding at a level that is appropriate for them.

A number of firms have already initiated their own learning in this area within their own companies. Many members have also started taking online data science courses.

There has been an increasing demand from members and employers for the IFoA to provide more support for its members with regards to data science education.

A challenge for the IFoA is providing data science education at the right level for a diverse membership with often differing needs.

IFoA Certificate in Data Science

In 2018, the IFoA set up a steering committee made up of senior members of the profession with an interest in data science and IFoA executive staff. One of the main aims of the committee was to develop a specific data science qualification for the IFoA.

The Certificate will be a stand-alone qualification available online to all IFoA members.

The Certificate will launch in 2020.  It will not form part of the IFoA’s Fellowship examinations.

As part of the development process for the Certificate, the IFoA carried out a pilot exercise in May 2019 in which five IFoA members from different backgrounds and at different stages of their careers sat the SDSA AI and Machine Learning for Business course.

The pilot provided useful data for the IFoA in terms of what works well in the context of an online data science course.

Register your interest for the Certificate


A syllabus setting data science in an actuarial context

The aim of the Certificate in Data Science is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the basics of data science for all members.

The syllabus will cover:

  • An introduction to Data Science
  • Data management, analysis and processing techniques
  • Fundamentals of Machine Learning and AI
  • Data visualisation
  • Practical issues for actuaries (regulation, ethics, legislation, professional standards etc)

It will also contain a number of case studies developed by IFoA members that will illustrate how the basic data science techniques are being used in an actuarial context.

The course has around 100 hours of content, including a lot of ‘bonus’ material that members can use to deepen their knowledge if they choose to do so.

No programming knowledge is assumed. However, there will be a number of practical exercises within the Certificate to introduce members to practical data science techniques.

The Certificate forms part of the IFoA’s Lifelong Learning agenda and its commitment to members to provide members with the skills and knowledge to thrive in the ever changing world of work.

We believe the course will offer a route through which actuaries can maximise their impact in a field that is of real importance for the future of the actuarial profession.

Register your interest for the Certificate

Find out more