Cloud Platforms

How the cloud relates to data engineering, analytics and actuarial work Interview by Arthur da Silva
Simon Latouche, Eng.

When the subject of cloud platforms surfaces in a conversation, ears perk up. With change being the new normal and organizations reimagining their futures in extraordinary ways, cloud engagement is seen as a springboard for innovation and transformation.

Arthur da Silva, FSA, FCIA, talked with Simon Latouche, Eng., about the importance of cloud usage and how platforms are utilized as they relate to data engineering, analytics and actuarial work.

What does “cloud” mean to you (i.e., infrastructure, data, applications, etc.)?

Latouche: Cloud is a revolution. You can see it as a type of technology-sharing economy, as it gives us access to extraordinary capacities for ad hoc needs that we pay for on a per-use basis. To a certain extent, it’s a technological response to many current business issues, such as the drive to deploy technological solutions quickly to seize opportunities or to adapt to a business context as witnessed during the pandemic. It’s a differentiating factor for the organizations that first ushered in this change and has become a rite of passage for others. It will dramatically accelerate digital transformation and modernization projects. It also will stimulate growth and exchanges among companies.

Why did you start your cloud migration journey?

Latouche: Today’s world is increasingly digital, and expectations are at all-time highs. We want fast-as-lightning services and customized interactions. Speed and customization entail tremendous agility and capacity in an environment with a labor shortage. It is therefore paramount to be able to focus on these value-added activities. In that respect, many infrastructure and maintenance activities are now performed by cloud providers—particularly administrative, security and optimization tasks.

The digital shift and high consumer expectations also have required the ability to process large volumes of data quickly and safely. In this context, the cloud allows us to optimize our costs with a “pay-as-you-go” model to benefit from scalable infrastructure that meets our needs, even in peak periods.

In what ways have you been using cloud platforms in your organization? What has been the impact on the company (or your clients) and actuaries so far?

Latouche: The cloud platforms at Beneva support our operational, digital, data and analytical systems. The impact on actuaries is to find efficiencies in their work by drastically reducing processing response times. Machine capacity for processing their queries is becoming less of a constraint. They spend less time optimizing their processes and more time on value-added activities.

The cloud also has allowed us to improve our technological capabilities to facilitate work in artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics. These capacities allow our actuaries to update our rate models more often. These innovations translate into fairer pricing, better services and customized interactions for our customers.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered as part of the cloud migration?

Latouche: Cost management is a different beast in the pay-as-you-go model. It calls for better governance, stricter oversight and more frequent internal housekeeping. Although we are more cost-efficient overall, cost predictability is more complex and, in certain cases, can become an element to consider in our business cases. For example, we upgraded our architecture to consider new financial realities, such as data export fees (data egress). Necessary skill-building is also a challenge, but the people involved are usually highly motivated to learn about these new technologies.

We had to build a strong partnership with our cloud providers, and they had a lot of resources to support us in our migration. They are important stakeholders in our success. It’s easy to establish this partnership—the more successful we are, the more we use their services. It’s a win-win situation.

What is the expected impact on the company and actuaries within the next three years? How should potentially impacted individuals prepare for such effects?

Latouche: At our company, the cloud is an integral part of our new technological underpinning. It will be a facilitator in integrating our services following the merger of La Capitale and SSQ Insurance. It also will act as an accelerator in implementing our new digital services and in the use of AI.

For actuaries, this paradigm shift will motivate them to acquire new technological skills, learn new tools and think differently to make full use of the environments at their disposal. To get there, there have been in-house training sessions in addition to materials and training offered by our cloud providers. Actuaries also can count on solid support and close collaboration with our technology teams.

Simon Latouche, Eng., is senior director, Data Engineering and Analytics, at Beneva in Quebec.
Arthur da Silva, FSA, FCIA, is senior manager, Actuarial & Insurance Solutions, at Deloitte in Toronto. He is also a contributing editor for The Actuary.

Statements of fact and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Society of Actuaries or the respective authors’ employers.

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