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19.12.2023

2023 Actuarial Conference Summary

November was a busy month in the actuarial events calendar, with the GIRO conference in Edinburgh at the start of the month and the Life conference in Birmingham towards the end of the month. We also saw the SAI Annual Convention in Dublin at the end of October. APR had a delegation at each and we relished the opportunity to learn more about the wide range of topics impacting actuaries and the insurance industry from many excellent speakers.

As part of our sponsorship of the IFoA Life Conference we had our own stand for the very first time. We really enjoyed engaging with so many contacts, old and new, and had great fun running our buzz wire and predictions competitions. I hope that everyone who visited us over the course of the conference enjoyed it too (and managed to take away at least a chocolate consolation!).

For those unable to attend the conferences, we wanted to share some of our personal highlights and takeaways from each, and hopefully pass on enough of our enthusiasm to encourage you to look up the slides and/or recordings once available!

You can skip to the relevant sections using the links below:

Common Themes

Artificial Intelligence

As you may expect, the increasing use of AI in society was a hot topic across each of the  of the conferences. Sessions covered a wide range of areas, from the current level of sophistication of AI and what it is being used for in the insurance industry, some speculation as to the limits of AI and how integrated into the industry it will become in the future, to the dangers of AI and our responsibility as actuaries to ensure that where results of AI are used, we properly investigate and analyse the results are fit for purpose.

Climate Change

Sustainability includes other aspects such as health, social justice, the economy, and wellbeing which were touched on. However, the challenges that climate change presents to the insurance industry were discussed in more detail, as well as the opportunities for actuaries to help build a sustainable world.

Insurance Industry Perception and Future

Another common theme was around the current state and (often poor) perception of the insurance industry by consumers. Several presentations touched on aspects of this from projected future pension prospects for younger generations through to the need for product flexibility, innovation and improved user experience to sufficiently meet the needs of today’s and the future’s consumer.

One interesting point covered was the availability and accessibility of financial advice with a statistic that many younger people are turning to the likes of TikTok and YouTube to learn about financial products, highlighting that potential customers may choose to consume information and engage with insurers through a range of different platforms and that companies need to be prepared to provide a seamless quality of service across all of these to win business.

Another element of this that was certainly at the forefront of the Life Conference was the FCA’s Consumer Duty principle, which “requires firms to act to deliver good outcomes for retail customers”. This is very broad and will necessitate an impact throughout insurers (and beyond). For many insurers implementing the changes has been and continues to be a huge amount of work. With the open book implementation deadline having passed at the end of July 2023 and the closed book deadline still to come at the end of July 2024. However, the discussion of the principle and its impact was upbeat and it did feel like this should enact a positive change for consumers and help to rebuild the trust between insurers and the general public.

SAI Annual Convention (26th October)

Actuaries from all over Ireland gathered in the convention centre in Dublin for a day-long feast of presentations on a variety of topics from the present (automation) and future of AI to Irish and European specific topics such as recovery planning, CSRD and activities in the Actuarial Association of Europe.

Climate Risk and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD)

The Central Bank of Ireland presented an interesting session that focussed on the importance of considering the full breadth of climate risk. Ensuring that insurers incorporate physical and transition risk when modelling. As well as considering a wide breadth of risks they also highlighted the importance of assessing the depth of risks. For example, considering how the changing climate could affect the cost and availability of reinsurance, the impact it could have on a company’s business model and how it could affect consumer choices.

This presentation also discussed double materiality. Considering how the focus is switching from an ‘outside in’ traditional risk management approach. And is instead becoming ‘inside out’ focusing on the actions that can be taken to support positive impact. As double materiality is required for CSRD this linked well with another session at the conference that gave an interesting introduction to the EU’s sustainability agenda and how insurers are expected to play their part. The main take away from this session was that in the future sustainability reporting will become increasingly on par with financial reporting.

With another session at the conference discussing high-resolution climate projections for Ireland, climate risk was definitely a hot topic at the conference. Overall, it’s clear that there will be a lot of interesting work for actuaries bringing together climate models with actuarial models to understand risks into the future.

Socioeconomic Diversity within the Actuarial Profession

Another interesting session from the conference examined the socioeconomic diversity within the actuarial profession in Ireland. The SAI socio-economic working group have worked to ensure that the profession is drawing from the widest pool of talent available. Today the majority of actuarial students in Ireland come from graduate entries from specialised courses. The barriers to higher education including the costs of attending University and the opportunity cost of not being able to enter full time employment are therefore limiting factors for the socioeconomic diversity of the profession.

An awareness was also raised of the role of schools in shaping inequalities in post-school pathways, through the access to higher level subjects, the social mix of the school and the role of guidance and expectations is shaping young people’s decision-making. The SAI are working to expand their project group to help establish baseline figures for the Irish profession in this area. They are also continuing their engagement with expert external parties to investigate possible solutions to improve the pathways to the actuarial profession in Ireland.

GIRO (1st – 3rd November)

Climate Change

The impacts of climate change are creating uninsurable risks. The impacts of climate change are creating uninsurable risks. The bell curve below shows small changes in average temperatures (eg 1.5oC) are causing big changes in the extremes.

 

It is clear that the general insurance landscape is changing. There has been a growth in climate litigation cases, these could become landmarks that set future precedents.

Extreme events are more likely but also attritional claims will likely rise (eg more burst pipes over cold winters). Contract wordings may need updated as climate risk poses a new type of risk to insurers.

Artificial Intelligence

Some examples of where AI is currently being used in the GI space include:

Large tech companies (backed by their AI capabilities) may become significant players in the insurance sector (eg Amazon is already offering home insurance).

It is hard to tell how fast and how far AI will improve in the future. This makes quantifying risk increasingly difficult. However, TAS100 principle 5 “models must be fit for purpose” applies to AI and Machine Learning models so these risks must be managed.

Examples of current AI risks include:

Insurers should therefore be developing an AI risk management framework.

Life Conference (22nd – 24th November)

Solvency UK Reforms

For many life insurers, the proposed changes to existing Solvency II regulation that will form the Solvency UK regime have been a key topic over the last year or so and will continue to be over the next few months as the consultations close and the eventual policy statements are released.

So naturally there were several sessions that discussed the various aspects of the proposals. In particular the changes to the matching adjustment announced as part of CP19/23 were a focus, with many presentations and audience questions related to the proposed allowance of up to 10% of the matching fund to come from assets with “highly predictable” cashflows (rather than fully fixed) and the Matching Adjustment attestation requirement where a key person (such as the CFO or Chief Actuary) will need to attest to the PRA that the matching adjustment and fundamental spread used in the valuation of the liabilities is appropriate.

With the consultation open until early January, there is still time for firms to provide feedback, and this was helpfully brought to the fore by the final plenary of the conference. This was presented by several representatives of the Bank of England/PRA who covered each of the main aspects of the MA reform in turn and explained the reasoning and motivation behind the current proposals, with key themes of improving business flexibility; being more responsive to the level of risk; and enhancing firms’ responsibility for risk management.

Bulk Annuity Market

Another hot topic at the life conference was the current state of the bulk annuity market. There were several interesting sessions ranging from the steps and broad timescales that companies would need to take to enter the market through to the current outlook, recent trends and future challenges.

One particular statistic that stood out was that there is estimated to be pension schemes with over £400bn of liabilities that are currently fully-funded and in a position to move ahead with de-risking activity such as buy-ins or buy-outs. However, there are constraints on the supply side due to the relatively small number of current market participants, meaning that it is expected that this will take several years to complete (and the demand will continue to grow as more schemes get ready to de-risk). This could potentially leave smaller schemes with fewer options in the short term as companies focus their limited capacity on the larger deals.

Some of the key challenges discussed included the timelines involved in entering the market (whether that be regulatory authorisation for a new company or extending permissions and internal model approval for an existing company), the availability of suitable assets for insurers to acquire to back the bulk annuity liabilities and optimise capital requirements, and the lack of appropriate resource to support the range of activities required when pricing a contract.

Conclusion

It was very hard to narrow down the set of highlights to include in this article, but we hope you found it informative and useful. We’d certainly encourage you to have a look at the slides and recordings where available to you to learn more – there were such a wide range of topics and covered and we’d like to thank all of the respective conference organisers and presenters for their efforts and making each conference such a success.

If any of these topics or challenges resonate with you, and you’re interested to hear what work APR is doing in the area then please reach out to us.

Ross Gordon, Craig Lynch and Aidan O’Boyle

December 2023