April 2013

Letter From the Editor

By Rich Junker and Paul Ramirez

junker-richard.jpg ramirez-paul
      Rich Junker                      Paul Ramirez

We welcome several new authors from outside our accustomed pool of member contributors.

We welcome Osmo Jauri and Timo Penttilä from Finland as first-time authors, introducing seriatim, contract-level Monte Carlo modeling in their article No Limits. Such are the advances in processing speed over the past half-decade. The authors describe the advantages of seriatim modeling now achievable.

Recent articles in CompAct have focused on end-user computing and the control issues it poses. Three Deloitte senior colleagues, Michael Juergens, Tom Donohue and Clayton Smith, have produced a comprehensive white paper on the subject, titled, fittingly, End-User Computing.

In Is Microsoft Excel the Next Great Business Intelligence Tool? we present a question-and-answer discussion from Rob Collie, CTO of Pivotstream, a provider of cloud-based PowerPivot and Excel services. He is a former senior Microsoft engineer for 14 years, notably playing a prominent role as a founding engineer of PowerPivot. Microsoft Excel has become an essential tool for the modern worker, and each successive release has provided more efficient ways for users to crunch their data. In Excel 2013, part of its latest Office suite upgrade, Microsoft has placed increased emphasis on business intelligence (BI) functionality.

Now let us describe what is on the minds of RETURNING authors:

In Tables Database Goes XtbML, Stephen Strommen discusses the latest development with the Actuarial Table Manager. He opens with, “The Society of Actuaries has decided to dedicate staff to maintain and enhance the electronic database of actuarial tables that was originally created by our section about 15 years ago.” He was there at the creation, along with Jim Toole, back when we were known as the Computer Science Section. Along the way, the introduction of the Table Manager in 2002 was the actuarial version of the Facebook launch.

Quoting from Jim, by then migrated to the International Section: “Did you hear? The latest version of the SOA Table Manager is available for free download on the SOA website! The first hour it was available it almost brought the site down—we had hits from all around the world! I mean, if you could get free access to 1000+ mortality tables from around the globe, wouldn’t you jump at it? This thing is hotter than the Victoria’s Secret Webcast, guys! Well, maybe not that hot. It all began when Steve Strommen and I were on the Computer Science Section Council together. While I was busy reading speculative fiction contest entries, Steve was designing and implementing the first version of the table manager. It was very successful and has become well known in actuarial circles.”

Andrew Chan lays out a number of powerful features of SharePoint beyond mere data storage, in his latest article Beyond Excel—SharePoint. Version Control, Excel Services, PerformancePoint Services and Workflows are potent tools to simplify your work.

Since the appearance of the Advanced Excel Survey article in the February 2013 issue of CompAct, a group of Technology Council members have been designing a webinar on Advanced Excel, scheduled for June 11th. Don’t miss it! By the next release of CompAct in July, we will have accumulated a full complement of survey responses, and the Excel webinar will be a past event. At that point, Andrew Chan will write an article summarizing the survey results and providing highlights of the webinar. Our thanks go to those who have completed the online survey. If you have not yet completed the survey, by all means do so. It takes only a minute or two. Every bit of knowledge we can gain of our readers’ needs is extremely helpful in structuring the webinar. For convenience, here again is the link to the survey.

Mental Math

MM Master Paul Ramirez

I am excited to introduce a new feature to CompAct. Beginning with this issue, we will be including excerpts from Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer. Random House, Inc., was kind enough to give us permission to reproduce a selection from this book each quarter in CompAct. Much of the knowledge to be gained from this book depends on accumulating some skills in the earlier chapters. However, I will try to include sections that stand on their own. The first selection demonstrates a simplified method to calculate the square of a two-digit number, based on some basic algebra.

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

Paul Ramirez, ASA, MAAA, is a senior actuarial associate, Actuarial at Allstate Benefits in Jacksonville, Fla. He can be contacted at pcramirez@gmail.com.