Accept the Challenge

Innovative resources and professional development opportunities to help you become a better actuary and leader

Save the Date for the 2018 SOA Annual Meeting & Exhibit

The 2018 Society of Actuaries (SOA) Annual Meeting & Exhibit is the largest SOA professional development event, and this year it will take place Oct. 14–17 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Put it on your calendar and plan on joining us. It features stellar speakers, sessions on a variety of fields for actuaries and many opportunities to network.

2018 Valuation Actuary Symposium

The 2018 SOA Valuation Actuary Symposium will be Aug. 27–28 in Washington, D.C. The symposium covers a range of content relevant to the finance, health and life industries. Attend to increase your acumen on the latest topics in valuation and financial reporting.

Sign up by July 31 and save $300 off the registration price!

Problem Solving

Through Kaggle, Actuaries Help Solve Complex Business Problems

Give an actuary a large data set and a problem to solve, and he or she is likely to feel a little giddy. This is their bread and butter. Manipulating and analyzing data are part of an actuary’s day-to-day routine, and for many, it’s the part they most enjoy. That’s why actuaries are so well suited to participate in Kaggle competitions.

Showcase Your Data Analytics Skills in the SOA’s 2018 Kaggle Involvement Program

Both individuals and groups are welcome to participate in the Kaggle Involvement Program. To compete as an individual, you must be a member of the SOA. Groups can include active candidates, and at least half of the group members must be FSAs
or ASAs.

Compete for SOA awards, including US$2,500 for eligible individuals/teams who place in the top 10 percent on the private leaderboard, and US$5,000 for eligible individuals who become a Kaggle Competitions Master.

The program closes Dec. 31, 2018. Actual prizewinners will be determined based on final rankings.

Learn more about the official rules and how to enter.

In a Kaggle competition, participants have the opportunity to contribute to major research initiatives—for example, improving prediction models for cervical cancer, detecting and classifying fish to aid in conservation—as well as less serious topics, such as identifying humpback whales by their tailfins or identifying horror authors through excerpts of their writing. Often, predictive analytics has a starring role in solving these challenges.

The Society of Actuaries (SOA) began the Kaggle Involvement Program to increase the awareness and credibility of actuaries as predictive modelers. In 2017, 15 SOA members and five candidates placed in the top percentiles for their challenges. “The competitions are filled with hundreds of teams, cutting-edge technology and industrial titans. With results like these, it’s clear that actuaries don’t need to explain why we’re the predictive analytics experts industries are looking for—we can prove it,” says SOA President Mike Lombardi, FSA, CERA, FCIA, MAAA.

Moshe Radinsky, ASA, FCA, MAAA, is a principal and chief actuary in Mercer’s New York office and leads the Health and Benefits Technology Solutions practice. His team finished in the top 25 percent in the Intel & Mobile ODT Cervical Cancer Screening challenge. “When I saw the announcement from the SOA about the Kaggle competition, I had two reactions,” he says. “The first was that I was happy to see the SOA recognizing the importance of data science and embracing a platform, even though it was nonactuarial, that would help actuaries learn skills that are important and will continue to become more important to actuaries. Second, the competition was structured so that attaining rewards was achievable for those willing to invest the effort in learning these skills.”

Each Kaggle competition is sponsored by organizations with names like Google, IEEE, NOAA and Intel, and many come with a hefty cash reward for those who finish at or near the top of the competition. As part of the SOA’s Kaggle Involvement Program, an additional cash prize is available for eligible participants who become a Kaggle Competitions Master or finish at a top percentile of their competition.

In 2017, Sarah Prusinski, ASA, MAAA, a consultant with Milliman’s PRM Analytics, took part in the challenge titled Planet: Understanding the Amazon from Space. The goal of this challenge was to label satellite images with atmospheric conditions and classifications of land use in order to help better understand deforestation. This was not the first Kaggle competition Prusinski had competed in—she regularly participates with coworkers. But this one was different, she says.

“The SOA’s Kaggle Involvement Program definitely helped enhance my experience in the competition. For the Kaggle competitions I participated in at work, it was more laid-back and less focused on winning. Due to this program, I had the motivation to see the project through from start to finish, and I put in the numerous hours needed to perform highly and better understand the features of the modeling software used.”

Participants can enter as individuals or as part of a team. To qualify for the SOA Kaggle Involvement Program, both SOA members and candidates can participate. However, candidates must have an official SOA member on their team.

“The teamwork aspect was great,” says Charles Cadman, FSA, CERA, MAAA, whose team finished in the top 10 percent for Planet: Understanding the Amazon from Space. “I couldn’t have done this on my own in so little time, and I contributed a piece of code that might have pushed the team over the 10 percent threshold.”

While the financial awards are motivating, they aren’t the only reward for participants. With Kaggle, competitors have the opportunity to learn new skills, hone current skills and apply it all to a real-world problem with demonstrable results. Companies benefit from the collective knowledge, and actuaries benefit from a broader understanding of data science and predictive analytics.

“I would highly recommend that any interested actuary consider participating in a Kaggle competition … You will gain firsthand experience, learn a lot and become well informed about both the potential and the limitations of machine learning and data science,” Radinsky says.

Prusinski agrees. “I would definitely recommend other actuaries participate in programs like this, and with Kaggle in general. Predictive analytics is rapidly growing and becoming more and more a part of our daily lives. Actuaries are already equipped with the skill base in order to be part of the change and form what predictive analytics [is] used for, and it can help change the services we can provide to the marketplace.”

Get more information on the SOA’s 2018 Kaggle Involvement Program.