Product Development Section Update

Listening is key to unlocking the products of tomorrow Ben Wadsley


It’s quite fitting that the theme of this issue of The Actuary is “The Future of Insurance Products,” as that is what we’re thinking about every day in the Product Development Section. Our focus is to identify trends affecting the future of insurance. But, more important, we are concentrating on how to educate actuaries on how to envision and shape the future themselves.

What is our vision for how actuaries develop future products? Listening. Listening to customers, distribution partners, technology firms, disruptors, other industries, data sources and all of a company’s stakeholders. And I mean all. Involving all stakeholders has its obvious advantages (ensuring the product works for all areas, product buy-in, etc.), but many of our best ideas can be inspired by the most unlikely departments. Call centers and operational areas are the two areas I recommend visiting first if you’re personally going on this journey, as they are often the first contact with customer feedback on what works and doesn’t work with existing products. I often like to say that when developing a new product, you should spend 90 percent of your time listening. And if you do a good job of listening, the remaining 10 percent is actually quite easy.

The Product Development Section has been hard at work delivering a lot of content related to these efforts, and it would not be possible without the support of our section members. We develop numerous sessions at both the SOA Annual Meeting & Exhibit and the Life & Annuity Symposium, present at the Accelerated Underwriting Seminar, produce a spectacular newsletter (Product Matters!), sponsor research projects and even coordinate exciting contests. Our last two contests were about the future of wearables and dynamic pricing in insurance.

Please visit our section’s webpage to join the section or to check out the many resources available to you. Most important, if you’d like to get involved with the section, please look for volunteer opportunities on the SOA Volunteer Opportunities Database or send an email. We’d love to have you!

Ben Wadsley, FSA, MAAA, is the head of Product Development & Pricing—Individual Solutions for Transamerica. He is the chair of the Product Development Section Council of the SOA.

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