May 2016

Letter from the Editor

Mark Africa ramirez-paul
By Mark Africa and Paul Ramirez

Welcome fellow members of the Society of Actuaries Technology Section to the second 2016 edition of CompAct. My first impression as co-editor is that I am grateful and impressed by the quality and content of our articles from our volunteer contributors. We have many actuarial peers with very impressive writing skills. Great job 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 our ongoing effort to keep a regular pace to the newsletter, we have two recurring series editions and two new contributors. All of our entries are fascinating and most timely. Here is what we have for you this month.

Who of Data Visualization

Mary Pat Campbell applies her excellent writing skills to highlight two examples (one good, one flawed) of applied visualization to scientific data and the respective results outcome of each scenario.

R Corner: Predictive Modeling—Tree Models

In a continuation of his R Corner series, Steven Craighead takes us through some illustrations of the visual and quantitative impact of tree models to heighten awareness to conclusions in a botanical example (iris petal width to variation relationship) and with regard to a linear regression model of antique car stopping distance(s). Craighead also talks about some tree models in our insurance data world that are more job specific.

Simplifying the Data Management Burden

Bob Hirsch

Bob Hirsch discusses the applicability of Master Data Management relative to the collective of policy administration system data as it relates to the transformations required for valuation work. This article is very timely and applicable to almost all forms of actuarial modeling.

Why You Need Power Pivot Yesterday
Tim Heng

Finally, we offer the beginning of an insightful series on the use of Power Pivot within Excel. Tim Heng does a great job of explaining the use of Power Pivot in the context of traditional information technology vernacular, data modeling, standard query language, etc. Power Pivot holds much promise for many of us to expand processing capabilities and capacity within the familiar confines of the Excel world.

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