CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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September 2013

What is the Research Committee Up To?

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By Dave Dickson, FCIA

As a practising actuary I never paid a lot of attention to research. In a pricing role I often used the results of research in pricing products but to some extent took the role of research for granted. I remember being involved with pricing critical illness products when the only experience data available were from a study done in Australia, and I wondered why there were no data from North America and why no actuarial association had data to help with pricing this emerging product. About a year ago I joined the CIA’s Research Committee, and recently became Chair. Since then I’ve gained a great appreciation for the importance of research to the CIA and to the public we serve.

Recently the committee used the Member Listening Group to find out how much members knew about it and if they were interested in learning more. The results showed that members are very interested in the committee and becoming more involved.

The Research Committee is made up of a steering committee with seven subcommittees representing our major practice areas. The subcommittees cover:
  • Annuitant experience;
  • Segregated fund experience;
  • Pensions;
  • Group life and health;
  • Individual life;
  • Property and casualty; and
  • Living benefits.
The subcommittees generate ideas for research projects, get them approved, and then manage them. Projects are usually outsourced.

At any one time we have almost 20 research projects underway. For example, we have the following:
  • Annual annuitant mortality studies;
  • Annual Canadian standard ordinary life experience mortality studies;
  • Segregated fund lapse study and policyholder experience study;
  • Our recent (and first) pensioner mortality study;
  • Group post-retirement medical and dental claims utilization study;
  • Ten-year term lapse study;
  • Term-to-100 lapse study and universal life level cost of insurance (LCOI) study;
  • Property and casualty water damage study; and
  • Recent critical illness experience study.
Other CIA committees also work with the Research Committee to have projects completed. For example, we are working with the Committee on Actuarial Evidence to investigate how discount rates used for commuted pensions and other purposes are set provincially, and also with the Risk Management Committee on a project involving operational risk.

Over the last few years we’ve also increased our involvement with the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and have a number of joint projects with them, such as a project to study enterprise risk management in Canada and also one to model defined benefit pension plans. These projects are usually at least partially funded by the SOA, and the society also helps us to manage them. Sometimes the project is one that was successfully completed in the U.S., and we are doing a Canadian version. We are also a member of a committee that looks for research projects that would benefit Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

We are always looking for research ideas and encourage members to contact us. Recently we’ve added a research section to the CIA’s new website with information about the committee and its various projects. We plan to make the website more interactive so that members can submit, or comment on, research ideas. We also plan to communicate more regularly to members about what the committee is up to.

I find working on the committee is very rewarding as we are doing important projects affecting most practice areas. It also allows us to work with other committees within the CIA, people from the SOA, and even actuaries from Mexico. The projects we complete often gain recognition from the public. For example, our recent pension mortality experience study has received a lot of coverage from the press and we hope for more when the final paper is released.

So I’m paying much more attention to research these days, and I finally found critical illness experience data.

If you are interested in joining our committee or subcommittees, have research ideas or any comments, feel free to contact me.

Dave Dickson, FCIA, is Chair of the Research Committee.


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