Big Data (and Opportunities)

Jeremy J. Brown

Photograph: Hyon Smith

Big Data—aka predictive analytics—is a term we have all heard, learned or used. There’s a growing need for actionable information from predictive data, tapping into the available data and building models upon it. As actuaries, we know data and models well, and we have great potential and expertise in this arena. Over a relatively short time, we have seen considerable interest and opportunities for actuaries around the world in working with predictive analytics. For example, actuaries are working with data analytics in the life, health care, and property and casualty sectors, as well as in risk management, investment and areas outside of insurance. Here’s an update on the Society of Actuaries’ (SOA’s) predictive modeling developments.

Curriculum Changes

Among the curriculum changes for associates, we will incorporate predictive analytics topics to prepare SOA-trained actuaries for future opportunities. Employers noted the need for this emphasis as we developed the curriculum updates. The learning objectives for associate-level topics on predictive analytics cover the model building process, exploratory data analysis, model selection, model validation and communication of results. These curriculum changes will warrant the exploration of new technologies applied to the assessment approach, with more details available in 2018.

Pilot Certificate Program

Recently we announced the predictive analytics pilot certificate program for fellows. This pilot program is part of our organization’s commitment to help actuaries stay on the forefront of new methods and knowledge. This five-month program has six eLearning modules and a two-day, in-person seminar. We selected 30 individuals out of nearly 100 applicants for this pilot program.

These individuals represent a variety of practice areas and actuarial expertise. Those that applied for this pilot program needed to be fellows in good standing, receive employer approval to join the program, and have at least five years of experience with models and basic analytics techniques. Participants who successfully complete this pilot program will receive a certificate of completion.  Their involvement will help shape future offerings in predictive analytics from the SOA.

Data Science Contest

As an organization, we continue to explore new ideas and opportunities for actuaries. For instance, we designed a new SOA contest for fellows and associates through Kaggle, an innovative platform for data science competitions. The SOA contest encourages actuaries to develop models and showcase their data skills. I’m glad to see our organization tap into different ideas and find ways to highlight actuaries’ abilities in this space.

As part of this SOA contest, which is expected to run through Dec. 31, there are prizes for individuals or teams that place in the top 25 percent of Kaggle’s private leaderboard, or place in the top 10 percent. There is also a prize for individuals who become Kaggle Competitions Masters. Read the contest rules and fill out the notification form.

Predictive Analytics Symposium

In addition to our existing professional development opportunities, such as webcasts, podcasts and concurrent sessions at SOA meetings, I also want to mention a new upcoming event. The SOA will host a predictive analytics symposium this September in Chicago. It is another opportunity for actuaries to build upon their skills and insights within predictive analytics and modeling. Stay tuned for more information on this upcoming symposium.

Additionally, I encourage you to check out the SOA resources on this subject matter, including the Predictive Analytics and Futurism Section and the SOA’s predictive modeling research.

In closing, it is great to see your continued interest in predictive analytics, and we’ll explore new opportunities and provide further updates on our efforts involving predictive analytics.

Jeremy J. Brown, FSA, MAAA, is president of the Society of Actuaries. Follow him on LinkedIn: