By Jacques Rioux , Sooie-Hoe Loke, Thorsten Moenig
Imagine a week-long party in the middle of winter with a few dozen friends in a Beatles-themed hotel. Every day you eat together, tell each other stories, and every night, you sing, dance, go out on the town, and generally just have a good time. If you are a young actuarial researcher, and you think this may suit your fancy, you missed a great opportunity to do just that, all while getting to know other young actuaries from all over the world and rubbing elbows with senior researchers also from across the globe.
PARTY 2015: Perspectives on Actuarial Risks in Talks of Young researchers was an international workshop for young researchers working on current actuarial science topics. It was organized by the Institute for Financial and Actuarial Mathematics at the University of Liverpool, and was held at the "Hard Days Night Hotel" in Liverpool. U.K. on January 11−16. It was the second edition of PARTY, the first one was held two years earlier in idyllic Ascona in the Swiss Alps. For both workshops, the research presentations evolved around risk analysis and longevity risk, interspersed with a few talks on financial engineering, valuation of insurance products, and policyholder behavior, among others. But what made this workshop different from other conferences was that the focus was on the young researchers themselves and their work.
Over 40 young researchers and actuaries-to-be from about a dozen countries attended the recent event in Liverpool. Most of them study or work in Europe, but some came from as far away as Kenya and China. North America, in contrast, was represented only by the three authors of this note. Attendees generally were at various stages in their master’s or doctoral programs, and a handful were recent Ph.D.s; the youngest attendee, however, was an undergraduate student from Kenya with a bright future. All but a few of them presented their recent work on current actuarial science topics. In addition, they got to benefit from the lectures and feedback of ten international keynote speakers from academia and actuarial practices. Moreover, some local actuaries attended the workshop to interact with the participants.
In Europe, most actuarial researchers choose a career in the financial services industry after completing their Ph.D. Therefore it was not surprising that the 2015 PARTY cohort was made up of mostly new faces. But at the same time, participants were noticeably more vocal, more engaging with presenters—both asking questions and providing constructive feedback—and more inclined to continue their conversation beyond the presentation. For instance, over the past two years, research on methodologies to assess longevity risk has evolved considerably. To see graduate students engage each other based on these advancements was a truly refreshing sight. There were also some participants who had no prior experience with giving presentations. Some had not even been to a conference before. For these first timers, PARTY 2015 gave them a wonderful glimpse into the world of academic conferences.
The conference theme was launched in 2013 jointly by Séverine Arnold from the University of Lausanne and Corina Constantinescu from the University of Liverpool—both young, successful actuarial researchers in their own right. They saw the unique opportunity such an event would present for young actuarial researchers to connect and interact with likeminded individuals in an informal yet highly engaging and productive setting. And even more notably, Séverine and Corina took the initiative to make this event happen—twice! Their efforts can help produce a very welcome change in research culture, by giving young aspiring researchers a forum to present and receive diverse feedback on their work; by facilitating the exchange of ideas (and possible collaborations) between young scientists from different institutions; and by—in the process—attracting them to pursue a career in academia.
While we each had a different experience at the event, we all felt that this was an event like no other and we owed it to you, young actuarial researchers, to share and raise your curiosity about it, and to motivate you to attend PARTY 2017 that presumably will be held in Switzerland again.