November 2016

Letter from the Editors

By Mark Africa and Paul Ramirez

Welcome fellow members of the Society of Actuaries Technology Section to the third 2016 edition of CompAct. We have fallen short on our goal to deliver four issues for 2016. The obstacles are many, but primarily rooted in the concept that those of us who serve as section members do so as volunteers in addition to our “normal” employment duties. The same can be said for our contributors and the time they generously offer as authors and throughout the publishing cycle. We plan to scale back and plan to publish two newsletters in 2017 (approximately six months apart) both will be print editions as warranted by feedback from our members. I remain grateful and impressed by the quality and content of our articles from our volunteer contributors. We have many actuarial and finance peers with very impressive writing skills. Thanks to those who have contributed content to the past and current issue of CompAct, we encourage others to join. Particular thanks to Mary Pat Campbell (Data Visualization) and Steve Craighead (R Corner) for continuing the installments in each of their respective series.

We continue to welcome feedback from you on CompAct content and other section activities. We also want to continue to encourage members interested in authoring articles or even suggestions for authors and/or articles to reach out to me at or Paul Ramirez at As always, we appreciate your constructive feedback.

In the current issue of the newsletter, we have three recurring series editions and one new contributor. All of our entries are unique, interesting and timely. Here is what we have for you this month.

Improvement of Core Financial Processes with Data Science

From the finance profession, Arthur Heezen III is a new contributor to our newsletter. Arthur provides interesting insight into the use of feature engineering to provide data analysis insights with specific examples building upon a “bag-of-words” model. The example from Arthur’s illustration is rooted in the finance discipline, but we found the use case easily applicable to actuarial to data analysis.

Power Query

Tim Heng provides insight regarding the Power Query Excel add-in in the second of his series. Tim compares and contrasts Power Query versus Power Pivot applicability and leads into his third installment regarding Power BI.

Where of Data Visualization

Mary Pat Campbell applies her popular writing skills to highlight several examples (many good, some flawed) of applied visualization to scientific data and the potential applicability of each sample data set.

R Corner: Predictive Modeling—Universal Theorems

In a continuation of his R Corner series, Steven Craighead takes us through a discussion of Universal Theorems, specifically projection pursuit regression(PPR). Craighead relates the applicability of PPR to mortality tables and principle-based reserves.

Paul Ramirez, FSA, MAAA, is a health actuary at Allstate Benefits. He can be reached at

Mark Africa, ASA, MAAA, is an IT actuary at AIG. He can be reached at