Instead of actuaries searching for learning opportunities offered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA), what if the SOA brought the learning to them? In early 2019, representatives of Lincoln Financial Group approached the SOA with that very idea. Lincoln was in the process of creating an ambitious program to enhance the predictive analytics skills of all of their actuaries along with select other employees who work with their actuarial teams. Lincoln actuaries who had completed the SOA’s Predictive Analytics Certificate program believed the curriculum closely aligned with Lincoln’s goals.
After ironing out the details, the SOA’s first employer-based education program began in December 2019. This article describes the program and the benefits it brings to Lincoln, as well as the future of SOA employer-based education.
One of the keys to the employer-based education program is that everyone from top management to students just entering Lincoln’s actuarial development program is involved. To ensure the various constituencies have a relevant learning experience, Lincoln created three cohorts.
Fifty-three leaders from throughout the organization participated in one of two two-day sessions. Topics covered were problem definition, data sources and structures, data ethics, overview of predictive analytics techniques, data visualization, communication and enabling analytics talent. The content was customized to match how Lincoln conducts these activities, and small-group discussions allowed leaders from disparate parts of the company to interact with each other.
Three groups, comprising 186 of the company’s credentialed actuaries, went through a five-month e-Learning program. An opening session provided a framework for the material, and the closing session featured small-group presentations based on case studies generated by the company. Content comprised about 60 percent of the material in the SOA Certificate in Predictive Analytics program and required significant use of R and RStudio to see analytics and actuarial models in action.
In 2021, approximately 80 of the participants will continue to a second phase with another five-month program. The additional material will cover the remaining learning objectives from the SOA Certificate program. Those who complete the program and pass a rigorous assessment will receive the SOA’s Certificate in Predictive Analytics. This phase will look at previously covered topics in more depth, as well as introduce several more advanced modeling techniques.
A single cohort of 118 members of Lincoln’s actuarial development program went through a three-month e-Learning program that was a scaled-down version of the first practitioner phase. A one-day closing seminar provided the opportunity for these individuals to present what they learned via a case-study analysis.
“When we identified data analytics as an upskilling priority for our actuarial population, there was not yet a program in the marketplace that met all of our needs,” notes Jen Warne, SVP and chief talent officer at Lincoln Financial. “We had two key priorities at the onset. The first was to design a program that was custom and tailored to meet Lincoln’s specific upskilling needs. The second was to bring in the best experts available, so we turned to the SOA. The results continue to exceed our expectations.”
Chris Naessig, VP, talent strategy manager at Lincoln Financial, says that “one of the key tenets in designing the upskilling program was to ensure participants could immediately apply the learnings in their jobs.
“We have already seen several day-to-day applications of the learnings, and we are excited to have our credentialed actuaries earn their Predictive Analytics certification from the SOA,” he says.
While the full program has yet to be completed, there have been clear benefits thus far. With everyone participating, managers at all levels are aware of what analytics can do, and their staff is prepared to take advantage of these techniques. We already have heard stories of actuaries across the company using their newly developed skills to solve problems and identify new approaches and processes for existing workstreams.
Does this program sound like a good fit for your company? It is now available to any employer, and the door is open to build similar programs on other topics. Please reach out to Courtney Nashan, CAE, senior director of Member and Stakeholder Engagement at the SOA, for more information about the program or if you would like to discuss other topic ideas for employer-based education.
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