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Educating actuaries to tackle the global risks of today — and tomorrow

By 2020, the nebulous network of interconnected items known as the Internet of Things (IoT) will include around 50 billion objects, from smart cars to smart homes and beyond, predicts the technology conglomerate Cisco. By then, the IoT market will be worth an estimated $7.1 trillion, according to International Data Corporation.

But not only does global connectedness highlight opportunities, it reveals and amplifies vulnerabilities. In 2013, for example, a large retailer was breached when hackers entered its network via the company’s HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) system. And researchers recently found their way into an automobile’s controls via the vehicle’s CD playback system.

Each new connectable technology that hits the mainstream — each new headline about a cybersecurity breach or a climate-change-fueled natural disaster — reminds us how vulnerable our physical and intellectual property is, and just how important a global perspective is for property and casualty insurers looking to protect customers and themselves.

“Due to the increasingly global nature of risk in the P&C market and the increasingly multinational profile of companies in that market, the old U.S.-centric [actuarial] model no longer applies,” observes Anthony Cappelletti, FSA, FCAS, FCIA, general insurance staff fellow at the Society of Actuaries (SOA). “A narrow focus on one country doesn’t really grasp the nature of the [insurance] business today.”

Managing exposure in a highly connected world requires that actuaries be educated and trained to anticipate, analyze and address risk on a broader scale than ever before. Actuarial educational programs like the SOA’s General Insurance (P&C) track to Fellowship use a distinctly global curriculum to prepare actuaries to do just that.

This global approach appears to resonate, as half the candidates enrolled in the SOA’s General Insurance track come from North America and the other half from abroad, according to Stuart Klugman, senior staff fellow at the SOA. Good general insurance tracks are rigorous and hands-on, offering candidates the chance to apply what they learn to some of the world’s most formidable emerging risks, including cybersecurity and data breaches, climate change, terrorism and disease pandemics.

Actuaries can emerge from globally focused general insurance education prepared to strategically manage these immense and shape-shifting risks and avoid potentially devastating liability catastrophes. Several educational program elements can prove particularly valuable in that regard:

1. A platform that fosters a global approach to general insurance actuarial education. Geopolitical, societal, climatic, cyber — specific risks and the actuarial approaches to addressing them vary by country, region and continent. Meanwhile, international regulatory systems are becoming more complex. General insurance Fellowship track education can serve as a conduit for the cross-border exchange of ideas, knowledge and standards of practice when the curriculum is shaped by globally informed senior actuaries, original research and analysis from expert sources worldwide.

2. A cross-disciplinary perspective. Having a strong grasp of disciplines beyond P&C gives actuaries the perspective to identify and act upon macro trends and to borrow and apply ideas, practices and solutions from other areas. Participants in the SOA’s General Insurance track, for example, get a thorough grounding in all areas of actuarial practice and the chance to leverage the organization’s community of more than 26,000 actuaries from a variety of disciplines in 82 countries.

3. Predictive analytics and other robust modeling tools to identify emerging risks and to inform efforts to address them. The pace of technological advancement makes it difficult for insurers to manage risk with historical claims data and traditional actuarial modeling methods. General insurance education that gives candidates real-world experience with next-generation analytics and modeling tools helps them identify and address emerging liabilities sooner and gives them the skills to develop actuarial strategies around such new products as usage-based insurance.

In a highly volatile P&C landscape where risks both foreign and familiar lurk around every corner, actuaries who bring globally oriented skills, tools and sensibilities to the table will be the ones who help propel their companies into the future, prepared to manage whatever risks they and their customers must confront.

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