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Will the Future Blame Us? Bringing future generations into today’s politics

On 19 April we hosted an event in collaboration with the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, bringing together actuaries and those from the policymaking community to talk about how we might embed long-term thinking in public policy, and how the actuarial skillset could be used to make this happen.

Image of panel at the eventWe were joined by Joerg Tremmel, Editor-in-Chief of the Intergenerational Justice Review, Clare Moriarty, Permanent Secretary at the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), and the IFoA’s own Louise Pryor, who is Chair of the Resource and Environment Board. The central question for discussion was how we might bring more long-term thinking into policymaking, to manage risks and uncertainties that transcend generations, and what this would mean for democracy today.

Joerg kicked off by pitting the actuaries in the room against a profession of much longer-term thinkers: geologists. We know actuaries are accustomed to dealing with long-term time horizons, but these pale in comparison with the millennia under consideration by geological epochs. The current buzzword in geological circles is the ‘Anthropocene’. This is the geological timeframe in which some argue we are currently existing, which reflects the relatively recent history of the earth’s ecosystems being significantly impacted by human activity – think mass extinctions of plant and animal species, oceanic pollution and changes to the composition of the atmosphere.

In this new epoch, do we need new political institutions to reflect the lasting impact that the human race is having on the earth, now and into the future? Joerg defined this in terms of the way our political leaders react to changing times:

The difference between a politician and a statesman is that the politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation. In the Anthropocene, the need for more statesmen is imperative.

The climate is arguably an area where longer-term thinking has been allowed to flourish. In recent years, you could say that climate change has become one of the few ‘mainstream’ long-term risks. For most people in the developed world, at least some of the potential impacts of climate change are well understood, and are increasingly becoming part of the national conversation. And in the developing world some of the consequences of these risks are already showing themselves.

It is no surprise then that we were given a range of examples where Defra, a department focused heavily on the natural environment, already incorporates long-term considerations into its work, and why it feels that much of its work in considering environmental impacts of policy leads to thinking about how decisions might play out over longer time horizons.  The Thames 2100 project for example, is based on climate change modelling looking into the next century. And on an international level, the Paris Agreement, while the true impact of which is yet unproven, represents a global effort to make substantive policy changes in the interests of future generations.

Clare Moriarty also provided the example of Patrick McLoughlin MP, who as a junior minster in the Department for Transport in 1989, was involved in the planning for Crossrail, which was only being constructed when he returned to the Department as Secretary of State in 2012.  The first travelers on the new Elizabeth Line will be at least one generation on from those who dreamt it up.

So there are some success stories, and examples of policies made with long time horizons in mind. But there is still a basic conundrum which lies at the heart of this decision-making process, which is how to convince the current generation to pay a cost in the short term when the benefits will be realised only by future generations.

All of this will of course be nothing new to actuaries. Understanding the long- term implications of decisions made today is at the heart of actuarial science. And we think these skills could be utilized more broadly by policymakers to help them make better decisions. Louise for example told us

I rarely talk about expected outcomes to my clients – I try talk about possible outcomes, and give some idea of how possible they are. And it’s possible outcomes that policymakers should be thinking about in the context of the long term.

We also discussed a number of ideas for reform, which could help to bring these concepts into decision-making in a more tangible way. The IFoA will be exploring these in more detail throughout 2018. If you have any ideas or want to contribute towards this work please get in touch using Policy@actuaries.org.uk.

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Events calendar

  • Current Issues in Life Assurance (CILA) Webinar series

    Webinar Series
    15 July 2020 - 3 August 2020

    Spaces available

    CILA is one of the pre-eminent events in the annual 'Life' calendar. Due to COVID-19 we are running the programme as a series of webinars covering topics aimed at practicing life actuaries from life offices, consulting firms and other employers of actuaries and those who work in or advise on, the life assurance market in the UK and Europe.

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance – Mortality in 2020 is now dominated by one thing, although – in our future-focused world – the pandemic is just one of many mortality considerations.  In this session, three well-regarded mortality/longevity specialists provide an overview of implications and impacts of COVID-19, recent and imminent CMI developments and more 'future focused' work in the MRSC

  • Spaces available

    Because of Covid-19, forecasters predict a severe recession in 2020, followed by a V or U-shaped recovery. This impacts both individuals and companies. However, compared to previous recessions, the impact on banks of higher credit losses should be mitigated to some extent by government actions. 

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series

    This session will provide an overview of the Population Health Management Working Party's research including defining impactability and impactability modelling, discussing some examples of specific modelling approaches, considering the practical challenges across the NHS as well as wider public perception and ethical issues.

  • Spaces available

    Many actuaries consider career opportunities in the Finance and Investment practice area after having started off in more traditional actuarial roles such as valuations, capital management or pricing. This session is aimed at helping actuaries to better understand roles in Finance and Investment and how they can fine tune their skills to pursue such careers.

  • Mortality and Longevity Webinar Series 2020

    Webinar Series
    22 July 2020 - 10 August 2020

    Spaces available

    Due to COVID-19, we are running this programme via a series of webinars commencing 22nd July.

    This webinar series will provide topical and practical updates and discussion on the latest thinking and innovations in mortality and longevity, and is designed to be very accessible to a broad range of experience.

     

  • Spaces available

    Insurers are making increasing use of medical research to help with assumption, models and underwriting. Experienced mortality/ longevity specialists discuss the issues in the interpretation of  medical research papers, using a range of case studies. The case studies will include COVID-19 points of current importance. Many of the concepts discussed (data bias, inference of causation) are also applicable to equivalent questions in 'big data' and advanced analytics.

  • Spaces available

    Members of the Mortality Working Group of the IAA have analysed changes in mortality for about 30 causes of death  and will discuss how causes of death are classified, and the problems of long-term data, appropriate metrics, including "years of life lost" (YLL), causes of death - a "measure of cohortness", the changes in dominant causes of death at older ages, and how can these types of studies enhance mortality forecasting.

  • Spaces available

    Predictive risk assessment and risk stratification models based on postcode-level consumer classification are widely used for life insurance underwriting. However, these are socio-economic models not directly related to health information. Similar to precision medicine, precision life insurance should aim to tailor policy pricing/reserving to the individual health characteristics of each client.

  • Spaces available

    This discussion, the fourth in the Extreme Mortality Events webinar series, will look at what poor model selection and calibration could look like – using inappropriate historical data; using incorrect 2020 mortality data; and inappropriate stochastic model recalibration (or lack thereof). Presented by Chair of the Life Board of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, Colin Dutkiewicz. 

  • Spaces available

    This webinar has been re-scheduled from its original date of the 1st July. Although ESG has many buyers across the asset allocation community, from pension funds to sovereign wealth funds, it still hasn’t found its place within the core asset management strategy desks where the money is actually invested. The problem as well as the opportunity is Fixed Income. Plenty of strategies exist for incorporating ESG within Equities, from screening, integration to a combination. ESG has picked up relatively quickly within Equities with rating,indices created using ESG factors. This talk will discuss how we price a quantifiable ESG credit risk premium and make it alpha worthy in a strategy. 

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series

    With the rising prevalence of dementia, how can we manage this risk effectively and can insurance do more? Matt Singleton, Ageing Lead at Swiss Re, will cover these topics and demonstrate how insurance could help people address their concerns.

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance – Join us for an exploration session on the use of data science in insurance companies today including how insurers are making sense of and using new data sources and technologies, exploration of practical applications of data science within actuarial work, benefits of data-driven decisions to solve business problems using the power of data and technology, and the role that actuaries can play to harness the benefits of data science.

     

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance

    This talk will look at a range of such techniques (e.g. mass lapse risk transfer, contract boundaries, risk margin relief, non-standard longevity risk transfer) that have been applied or considered by UK and EU insurers, and the pros and cons of each.

     

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance.

    The International Association of Insurance Supervisors announced on 14 November 2019 the adoption of v2.0 of the global Insurance Capital Standard (ICS) which will undergo confidential reporting for 5 years starting from 2020. This session will include specific experiences from Legal and General (L&G) as well as global industry perspectives from EY.

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance

    This session will cover the PRA supervisory statement on financial impacts related to climate change, industry insights into PRA climate risk business plans, examples climate risk strategy setting out key workstreams and activity steps for successful execution, an overview of a climate risk strategy execution timeline and the future.     

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. Using new and unique research and data from the UK, US, Sweden and China, this presentation investigates how consumers use the internet through their insurance journey and analyzes the role culture and generation plays in their online behaviour. We use this research to show the online landscape for insurance sales in the UK and suggest ways to shape new products and effectively engage with the consumer who is buying them.

  • Spaces available

    Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Gen Re Life/Health Research and Development, Dr John O'Brien, will discuss the impacts of Gene Modification for life/health insurance. 

  • Spaces available

    As an industry, it has been important to be able to look to the future to identify the next quantifiable risk. In this session, I will explore some of the less tangible, but none-the-less concerning risks to future health, such as the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, ingestion of plastic in the food chain, and the hazards of indoor air pollution through exposure to volatile organic compounds.

  • Spaces available

    The working party will help the industry to update and enhance how potential risk from diabetes and excess mortality is considered, including the need to understand the underwriting implications as treatments improve, and potentially to develop new products that are tailored to those with diabetes.

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. Modelling the structure and trends of cancer morbidity risk is important for pricing and reserving in related health insurance fields such as critical illness insurance and care provision. We model the dynamics of cancer incidence over time in different regions in England, using 1981-2016 ONS data. The modelling allows estimation of cancer rates at various age, year, gender and region levels, following a Bayesian setting to account for statistical uncertainty. Our analysis indicates significant regional variation in cancer incidence rates. 

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. In this talk we will outline the steps Aviva took in pulling together our first large-scale disclosures on the exposure of our business to climate change published in March 2019; in line with the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. After touching on why insurers have such an important role in climate change, we'll cover a brief “how-to” guide for those who have not yet embarked on thinking about these topics before giving a case study of how the learnings from a TCFD disclosure exercise can be applied to investment portfolios.

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. 

    The insurance industry currently underwrites customers with diabetes based on a range of factors, medical expertise and various medical studies. The work undertaken by the Diabetes Working Party would help the industry to approach this using current research findings to update and enhance how potential risk from diabetes is considered. This includes the need to understand the underwriting implications as treatments improve, and potentially to develop new products that are tailored to those with diabetes. This webinar will present our latest findings in the management of this important chronic condition which will include research in collaboration with the ARC.