October 2013

Letter From The Editors

By Paul Ramirez and Rich Junker

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

We have three new contributors to this quarter’s newsletter.

Anton Kobelev describes his experience in learning Sungard’s Prophet system in his article “Reminiscences of a Prophet Operator.” More of his writing can be found on his blog at www.actuarialstartup.com.

In “Analytics and the Analytical Insurer,” Stuart Rose describes how insurance companies can gain a competitive advantage by making better use of analytics.

Chris Stiefeling approaches the challenges of processing speed for multiple Stochastic projections. His starting point is a discussion of how video gaming has driven advances in the power of enhanced video cards, leading to far more rapid processing of data. Now you see the rationale for the title, “GPUs: How We Went From Zombie Blood Splatter to Financial Projections.”

As for our returning authors: Andrew Chan describes similarities in the steep learning curve of both his DSLR camera and Microsoft Excel in his article “DSLR: The DSLR Novice Seeks To Be The Excel Artist.” He brings up a valid question: how many people who describe themselves as “Excel users” really know anything more than the most basic functions?

Kevin Pledge discusses an upcoming SOA seminar on business analytics in his article titled, “R—The Right Choice for Analytics?” He also describes the different types of software that are part of the analysis process and the skills necessary in analytics.

Van Beach approaches the challenges of processing speed by a separate approach from Chris Stiefeling’s above. He traces the rapid developments in Cloud Computing in his article “Cloud Computing for Actuaries.”

Be sure to explore the newly introduced Technology Learning Center under Quick Links in the Table of Contents. The new name replaces the former Links of Interest. You will find a number of new online learning resources for the software tools most in use by actuaries, all compactly located in one place. We welcome your suggestions for additional online learning tools. Send them to either of your editors, Paul or Rich, our contacts appear above.

The Competency Framework Personal Development Plan is the ideal place to capture several of these links, to lock in your commitment to mastering the actuarial tools you need for your work. In case you have not yet formalized your personal development plan…we are apostles for the Society of Actuaries’ support of continuing education: /professional-development/competency-framework/self-assessment-tool.aspx  

Over just the past few years, Business Analytics has been transforming the work of the actuary. Many of the above software tools have become far more powerful as a result. To keep our skills current and remain central players on the turf now being contested with us by statisticians and economists, we must all allocate significant time to sharpening our tools. These links can serve as the foundation of your personal development campaign for the Technical Skills and Analytical Problem Solving Competency.

Paul Ramirez, FSA, MAAA, is a senior actuarial associate at Allstate Benefits. He can be contacted at paul.ramirez@allstate.com.

Rich Junker, FSA, MAAA, CLU, is an actuarial consultant at Junker Consulting in Tampa Bay, Fla. He can be contacted at richardjunker41@gmail.com.