Exploring Strategic Research

Q&A with R. Dale Hall
Visit SOA.org/research/about-research for the latest updates on new research opportunities, data requests, experience studies and completed research projects.

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) established the Strategic Research Program Initiative to identify key themes of strategic research for the future. R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, MAAA, SOA managing director of Research, provides an update on the strategic research programs.

What is the main purpose of the strategic research programs?

Hall: In 2017, we developed the SOA Strategic Research Program Initiative to determine key themes of strategic research that will be of long-lasting importance to actuaries, their employers, industry stakeholders and the public. We wanted these programs to help provide useful information for actuaries and continue to have the SOA be seen as a prominent and objective research organization around the world. We identified five key topic areas, and the programs cover a variety of practice areas and research methods, taking into consideration a global audience.


Living Longer

The 2020 Living to 100 Symposium brings together actuaries, academics, demographers and many others interested in longevity. This event takes place Jan. 13­–15 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Emerging Risks Survey

See the major findings from the 12th Annual Survey of Emerging Risks, which include growing climate concerns and continuing cyber concerns.

Multiemployer Pension Plan Stats

Access the collection of multiemployer pension plan stats, which include a variety of plans involving sports and entertainment. The NBA Players’ Retirement Benefit Plan Stats have been updated for 2017. For funding purposes, the discount rate used to compute liabilities represents the long-term expected return on assets; this plan uses 7.50 percent. For funding purposes, the plan is 64 percent funded for 2017.

Each of the strategic research programs has a Program Steering Committee to help develop and maintain pivotal research projects, and to help inform the actuarial profession as well as support ideas from both a business and a societal perspective.

What are the research programs available?

Hall: We launched our first of these programs in 2018 on aging and retirement. Since then, we’ve developed and released research on the impact of aging populations and the actuarial risk management of retirement. This program brings together our existing research and ongoing studies on post-retirement needs and risks, and at the same time helps highlight new areas of research within this space.

One example of a new type of project is the survey comparing retirement and financial concerns among different generations, from millennials and Generation X, to early and late baby boomers and the Silent Generation. I’m glad to see these new studies, which build upon our available research resources. Other reports include a variety of studies on long-term care trends, multiemployer pension plans and retirement literacy.

Our second program launched was on actuarial innovation and new technologies. So far, we’ve created studies and reports on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, behavioral science, cloud computing, genomics and microinsurance. Also, there’s a literature review on big data and how actuaries can use nontraditional data sources.

Most recently, we have a program focusing on longevity trends and the factors impacting models and mortality predictions. Through this program, we are building upon our existing experience studies catalog and providing further analysis on trends that impact mortality rates and longevity. We continue to develop observations on population mortality in the United States.

What are the future programs?

Hall: There are two strategic research programs in development. One focuses on the forces that shape health care costs and utilization as well as changes over time. We’ll be exploring what drives costs, including social factors and demographics as well as trends in medical services and pharmaceuticals utilization.

The other program will focus on climate trends and their impact on extreme and catastrophic events. These research projects will look at the impact of shift­ing climate patterns and both the frequency and severity of extreme events on the public and the insurance industry across all lines of business. The recent mortality, health and property impacts of a variety of hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other catastrophes emphasize the importance of this line of research.

Research Insights Podcast Series

R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, MAAA, is SOA managing director of Research.

Copyright © 2019 by the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois.