February 2012

Letter From The Editors

by Rich Junker and Andrew Chan

Getting our hands around a vast expansion of operating data and communicating it meaningfully is a core skill of actuaries operating in the 2012 risk management era. To that end, each of our authors this month has made a worthy contribution to managing and communicating data:

Solvency II — How SAS Can Ease Your Implementation Worries ...Solvency II is a tool that goes beyond regulatory compliance and seats a risk management culture. In our lead article, the SAS Institute has laid out a process for installing Solvency II in your company.

Health Care Data ...The culmination of the past 30 years of data manipulation is a revolution in product management. Nathan Mathews and David Cusick lay out standards for data assembly to streamline the creation of byproduct reports. We all know the importance of data—as Nathan and David suggested in their article, data is the lifeblood of our business. Actuaries spend significant amounts of their time working with data. Nathan and David shared with us their challenges and suggested best practices.
We also want to hear what your data challenges are and how you solve them.

Apps for Actuaries ...The Technology Section is partnering with the Society of Actuaries to identify apps of special value to actuaries. Dave Kester will be reviewing a few apps with each issue of CompAct this coming year. Dave's conclusion says it all—we're in it together:
... I plan to provide regular updates in future CompAct articles in my research on apps for actuaries. This is a journey we can go on together. I welcome your feedback and would be glad to share any thoughts you have in future articles. You may contact me directly or make comments on our Technology Section LinkedIn group. That is the preferred method, so others can benefit from your feedback in real time.

Excel VBA Efficiency and Performance ... The focus of Kevin Roper's 11 rules for optimal VBA programming is manipulating data with SPEED.
Getting correct results is only the first step to building a financial model. Kevin shows us how we can significantly speed up our financial model on Excel VBA. What else do we need to consider when we build a financial model?

R Corner—The CUT Function... Steve Craighead elucidates the CUT function of the R programming language, to tame large volumes of data, and form the results into meaningful groups.

SQL Cursor Article ...Dan Rachlis describes the SQL Cursor tool for streamlining data assembly for reports. Quoting Dan: “Having technical tools to manipulate data can be very powerful in being efficient in managing your time to provide deliverables to clients."
If you have too much data in Excel and find INDIRECT, OFFSET and VLOOKUP too difficult to manage, then you may want to consider switching to a proper database management system such as SQL Server. Dan describes in his article how we can use the SQL CURSOR tool to easily retrieve data from SQL Server.
What is your biggest challenge in term of data retrieval?

An iPad in Your Future? ... While some actuaries remain in the desktop and cell phone ranks, most have an alarming number of gadgets—Blackberries, Droids or iPhones, iPad, laptops, duplicates even. (Pity the poor HP12C.) With tablets now the latest revolution in communication, we face the pleasant task of sorting through all the apps available to delight our number-crunching, yes, even friendly social animal/FSA, souls.
Rich Junker, yours truly, helps you decide on whether the iPad is the next tool for you. Assuming you will soon have the iPad in your needy fingers, you can immediately turn to exploring new apps. For example: leehopkins.net/2010/12/06/top-5-ipad-business-apps/

As you can see, this issue of CompAct is chock-full of valuable information designed to make your life more efficient. Let Andrew or me know if you have any comments on any of the articles, even if something just doesn't compute.

Rich Junker, FSA, MAAA, CLU, is an actuarial consultant at Junker Consulting in Tampa Bay, and can be contacted at richardjunker@tampabay.rr.com.

Andrew Chan, ASA, is a financial model engineer with ALG Consulting. He can be contacted at chan_a@algconsultings.com.