March 2016

Letter from the Editor

Mark Africa ramirez-paulBy Mark Africa and Paul Ramirez

Happy New Year to fellow members of the Society Of Actuaries’ Technology Section and readers of CompAct. As a newly elected member to the Section Council, I have been recruited to work with Paul as newsletter co-editor. With any new role, I think it is important to recognize the positive impact of predecessors, and continue to build upon what they have accomplished. Particular thanks to Paul and Rich Junker for their generous guidance and advice.

With that said, we will attempt to set a regular pace to the newsletter, returning to a quarterly offering pending feedback from the membership. One goal of the Technology Section is to continue to provide value to the membership in the form of this letter as well as other activities that we provide throughout the year (presentations, webinars, etc.). We know that all of our business and personal spends are under continued scrutiny, you have the right to expect value to your membership. 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 at We have a great list of historical contributors who have provided excellent content and have been most gracious with their time, if you want to hear more on a particular topic or particular author, please tell us, if you want to hear about something else, tell us that as well.

Here is what we have for you this month.

A Summary Look at getAbstract

This is a slightly revised version of an article from Mary Pat Campbell where she walks through a valuable example of using getAbstract within the SOA website. Access to this service is a benefit of membership in the Technology Section that the council agreed to fund for another year. Utilization has been by a minority of members so please try it out, it is a great tool and you can use it for free!

The Why of Data Visualization

Mary Pat Campbell shares some ideas on how we can display and analyze data more effectively by focusing on data visualization. Working through various examples, she discusses some common errors in data visualization and how to overcome them.

Running Simulations Using Excel Without VBA

Tim Heng uses some simulated profit margin examples to demonstrate the power of simulations in Excel for large scale runs without invoking macros or VBA. This is a great demonstration with tremendous applicability for many of us that generates simulations for stochastic forecasting.

R Corner – Predictive Modeling: Data

In a continuation of his R Corner series, Steven Craighead takes us through some fascinating examples of how R can be used for predictive modeling with two geological data reference sites. The example illustrates calibration and potential data usage. Steve also talks about additional examples from the travel sector.

Are You Agile?

Jenna Fariss gives us a high-level overview of the Agile approach to software development. Jenna provides a preview of the Agile panel discussion scheduled to be offered at Life & Annuity Symposium in Nashville this May. The overview provides insight with regard to utilizing Agile beyond software development space to actuarial business process applications.

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