Articles - Actuarial Modelling: London Whale 2.0?

Modelling Design Partners and SolveXia recently conducted a survey, in collaboration with Actuarial Post, to better understand the challenges faced by actuarial departments. The results revealed that the most pertinent challenge that is associated with actuarial processes is vulnerability to input error. Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents also indicated continued concern about regulatory requirements. Most worryingly, though, is that a significant dependence on spreadsheets for major calculations was noted.

 Spreadsheets are pervasive in many industries, due to their flexibility and perceived reliability. Actuarial departments are no exception: 90% of respondents indicated that their departments use spreadsheets. Despite their ease of use, spreadsheets are notoriously difficult to audit and control. Frequent manual manipulation of data and equations is often required, which leave spreadsheets vulnerable to human error. The London Whale incident and the Reinhart-Rogoff fiasco are both extreme examples of such errors- one in investment banking, and the other in international economics. In both cases, highly qualified mathematicians, and world-renowned economists accidently copied incorrect equations in spreadsheets, which led to disastrous errors.

 The insurance industry uses the same investment instruments as investment banks, within asset-liability hedging strategies. In our survey, almost 70% of respondents indicated that spreadsheets are used to perform major calculations in actuarial departments. Undetected errors in these spreadsheets may lead to insurance executives not correctly estimating the risks within their portfolios, thereby increasing the risk of extreme losses in relatively ordinary market conditions.

 Nonetheless, the survey results also show that an increasing number of actuarial departments use process automation. Process automation platforms, such as SolveXia, allow actuaries to have the flexibility of spreadsheets, while reducing the risk of error caused by manual input and also adding transparency and audit ability.

 Is process automation the solution to overcome these issues relating to risk and cost?

 To view the full results of the survey please click below.


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