What are life insurance actuaries talking about?

Image from @DWSimpson

Image from @DWSimpson

In the 2nd week of May, I attended the Society of Actuaries’ Life and Annuities Symposium. It was a full-on three days of speakers and panels dedicated to discussing the ins and outs of the most pressing issues on the minds of life and annuities actuaries, followed by a day dedicated solely to discussing product development.

I usually find events like this provide an excellent barometer of an industry. Get a healthy mixture of thought leaders and those on the coalface in a room together and you’ll start to see some trends emerge.

True to form, over the course of those three days a number of issues distinguished themselves as today’s “hot topics” for life insurance. After taking some time to think these over, I want to share the best of what I learnt. Here’s what life insurance actuaries are talking about the most:

HOT TOPICS FOR LIFE INSURANCE & ANNUITY ACTUARIES
PRINCIPLE BASED RESERVES (PBR)

Overwhelmingly discussions at the SOA Life and Annuities Symposium centred around Principle Based Reserves. Specifically, what effect it will have on modelling for life insurance actuaries.

Conversations I had with people suggested their organization will not be ready by the 1 January, 2017 timeframe (although they have much longer than this to implement) and as of right now, they are not prepared to deal with the changes. Many do see it as an opportunity however and it will no doubt lead to some long hours for actuaries in the coming few years.

TAX REGULATIONS

Tax regulations are the source of a lot of complexity for life insurers, so this is not a new theme for discussion. The challenge of keeping abreast of any developments and changes, however, continues to be relevant.

THE LENGTH OF TIME IT TAKES TO CREATE A NEW PRODUCT And how to accelerate the process.

A study led by the SOA showed that for most life insurance carriers to implement a new product (from ideation to launch) it’s somewhere between 40 to 52 weeks, depending on the product.

Although less than overseas markets (i.e. Asia Pacific & Europe), it still forces carriers to lag behind the needs of consumers, and restricts their ability to take advantage of market change. We heard anecdotally and via data points, that carriers in other markets can launch new products in a faster timeframe, sometimes in as little as 3 months.

There was a lot of speculation over the best way to speed up the process, an achievement that would grant considerable advantage.

AUTOMATED UNDERWRITING

Automated underwriting, although not viewed as a core problem, is seen as a key investment theme for many carriers at the moment. It was interesting to note that although automated underwriting does not cause many life insurance carriers with challenges at the moment, it is widely seen as a key opportunity to speed up the policy issuance process, an opportunity a number of organizations are already taking advantage of.


 

About the Author

Geoff Keast is the SVP of Market Development for Montoux’s US and Canadian business. In his role, Geoff is responsible for leading Montoux’s growth ambitions in North America and helping life insurance carriers to speed up the product development pricing process. Prior to joining Montoux, Geoff spent almost a decade in FinTech, operating in Asia Pacific, North America and EMEA, including leading a business unit focussed on digital banking technology and improving the method at which consumers engage with their financial institution. Geoff holds a B.A from the University of Canterbury and an M.B.A from from Victoria University.