Predictive Analytics and Futurism Section Update

Expanding opportunities for actuaries in predictive analytics Ricky Trachtman

The Predictive Analytics and Futurism (PAF) Section of the Society of Actuaries (SOA) has always been at the forefront of innovation. It is a place actuaries can go to find new techniques to apply in their work. Recently, we changed the section name from Forecasting and Futurism to Predictive Analytics and Futurism to reflect the innovative work we have already been doing.

In the spirit of futuristic techniques implied by our name, we conducted a Delphi study to choose our new one. A Delphi study eliminates the biasing influence of hierarchy and involves rounds of anonymized responses that form the input for the successive rounds until study participants stop changing their minds. Our new name not only better reflects our focus, but it also has attracted new members to our section. This goes to show the profession’s interest in predictive analytics.

Section membership has increased by about 65 percent in the past year. We currently have 1,182 members, the majority of whom are located in the United States and Canada. We do, however, have some members from Europe and China as well. Our membership is represented most heavily by the life and health practice areas.

The work we do at PAF is vast and interesting. Our membership benefits from our work in many ways. Our council, friends of the council, members of PAF and others work hard to provide interesting and applicable content. A good example of this work is our newsletter, which we produce semi-annually.

Our one-day seminar after the Life & Annuity Symposium in Nashville last year was a big step for us. The goal of this seminar was to apply predictive analytics in the life and annuity space. It was a major success. Industry leaders presented hands-on demonstrations, and a data scientist spoke for part of the day. We will repeat this event after the Life & Annuity Symposium in Seattle this year.

As a section, we sponsor many SOA sessions throughout the year at various meetings, including the Life & Annuity Symposium, the Valuation Actuary Symposium, the Health Meeting and the SOA Annual Meeting & Exhibit. We also sponsor—by ourselves or with other sections—webcasts throughout the year.  Please be on the lookout for some of these great opportunities.

Recently, we also started to produce podcasts that are posted on the SOA website. You can find many podcasts on predictive analytics, including subjects such as machine learning and the bias-variance tradeoff. We expect to produce a number of new podcasts on predictive analytics topics in the near future.

At PAF, we not only focus on providing content, but we also encourage discussion and community building. That is why we have a forum on LinkedIn that facilitates online discussion and sharing of links. We also recently started a Virtual Open Forum that is free for our members. This forum is held online, typically during lunchtime. It is a great way to have lunch, learn and fulfill some educational credits. On this forum, a group of experts continues discussions about their articles and presentations, where questions and interactions from the audience are much appreciated and key to its success.

We are always looking for opportunities to help spread knowledge on predictive analytics and help actuaries showcase their work. Please contact us with any ideas on research, presentations and articles.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the members of PAF. If you are not yet a member, please consider PAF when you renew your SOA membership. We are more than just a section. We are a community.

Ricky Trachtman, FSA, MAAA, is a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman, where he specializes in pricing and development of life and annuity products. He is currently the chairperson of the SOA Predictive Analytics and Futurism Section Council.

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