One of the first steps the ICAT took at the beginning of May was to survey volunteers as a way to take the pulse of working actuaries and other volunteers, and to brainstorm ideas that will inform IFoA operations and ICAT workstreams. The response was overwhelming in both quantity and quality. Over 400 respondents from at least 50 countries availed themselves of the opportunity to register 700+ comments covering the gamut of actuarial practice.
We’ve prepared a slide deck summarising the responses to questions and the comments, but we’ll give the very short version here.
Actuaries are voracious and discerning consumers of information, and they did not hold back on their opinions of the relevance, reliability and readability of available sources on COVID-19, identifying a number of additional sources beyond those mentioned in the survey.
However, they don’t just want more information - they want better information too, in the form of detailed advice guides from ICAT workstreams concerning actuarial practice in the short term and new ideas stretching into the long term. All the usual areas came up - profitability, economic drivers, assumptions etc. - but there were also some “aha” ideas like studying the real estate implications of changes in office use, and the impact of changes to human relationships from home working.
Support for members
Actuaries are a community, and they are keenly aware of the differences in personal and professional impact of COVID-19 on diverse colleagues. Many ideas came in concerning the well-being of colleagues and requesting flexibility in communication and professional development. There was particular focus on the challenges of exam-takers, job-seekers, and international members.
Although the current level of uncertainty means a lot of actuarial work still has yet to be performed, over two thirds of respondents are already considering COVID-19 impacts in their work or are making plans to do so. They reported on how they are reassessing assumptions and performing sensitivity testing. Many are also performing reforecasting, out of cycle reporting and ad hoc analyses.
The Changing workplace
Actuaries are split on whether the changes in the workplace have been manageable, but they cited similar business and social challenges. Respondents gave many examples of the vital role of communication technology in moving business and society forward.
Changes in demand
Already there are strong pluses and minuses in the demand for actuarial services as a result of COVID-19. Respondents who see a decrease in demand focussed on how COVID-19 related economic and social disruption has led to business stresses that threaten the short-term comfort zone for actuaries. Those who see an increase in demand picture a not-too-distant future of new product ideas and emerging needs for creative actuarial analysis. The consensus of respondents is that the future will certainly not be business as usual.
Open the slide deck! We were amazed at the perceptive and constructive input, but what do you expect from 400 actuaries putting their heads together?