The 2015 Actuarial Evidence Seminar – a Bridge between Practice Areas

By Craig A. Allen, FCIA

Our profession, compact and collegial as it is, has developed a number of specialties, each with its own concepts, vocabulary, and culture. There’s no question that specialization has beneficial effects—giving us the time and focus to innovate and develop solutions to difficult problems, both emerging and long-standing.

Yet specialization can put us into silos that isolate us from other actuaries with complementary skills and valuable perspectives. The 2015 Actuarial Evidence Seminar aimed to dial back the splintering effects of specialization. It did so by aiming its spotlight on a set of business and political challenges that are of unifying importance to several areas of practice. Kudos go to the seminar organizers Daniel Gagné and Louis Martin for arranging an illuminating two-day seminar, September 11–12, in Québec City.

The Seminar

The Actuarial Evidence Seminar is a very well-attended specialty seminar on the CIA calendar (relative to the number of actuaries in its practice area). An annual event since 2000, the two-day seminar attracts some 50 actuaries every year, from across Canada (out of approximately 85 actuarial evidence practitioners). Costs and registration fees are kept low, suiting the entrepreneurial nature of this area of practice.

The Unifying Focus for the 2015 Seminar

The civil justice system and the system of compensation for lost earnings and medical care arising from personal injuries are the common ground that brings actuarial evidence together with several other actuarial practice areas, including

The objective of the first day of the 2015 seminar was to raise awareness of this common ground, through the specific example of Canada’s auto insurance systems. Seminar participants and attendees included distinguished guest speakers, more than half a dozen first-time attendees from the property and casualty area of practice, and a core of actuarial evidence practitioners.

Auto Insurance

The provinces have established distinct systems for compensating motor vehicle losses, and are working to improve those systems every year. The systems primarily vary across two dimensions:

The seminar compared the systems and the reforms of those systems, in terms of both cost-effectiveness and desirable outcomes—from the perspectives of injured parties, providers of insurance, and the consumer.

Marie-Hélène Malenfant of the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) and special guest speaker Professor Daniel Gardner of Laval University set out the structure and performance of Québec’s government-operated, pure no-fault system as a baseline for comparison of the other systems.

The Ontario system and its 2014 reforms were then analyzed by three special guest speakers: Ontario Trial Lawyers Association president Maia Bent, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Ryan Stein, and consultant Willie Handler, previously of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. The most recent Ontario reforms have shifted the balance of compensation from no-fault benefits to tort compensation, thereby heightening the involvement of actuarial evidence. The focus of much of the panel’s discussion was whether the mandated processes and their costs under Ontario’s no-fault coverage are serving the objective of providing timely, cost-effective treatment of injured individuals. In the background of the discussion was the capacity of the tort system to serve the same objective.

Insurance claims process consultant Claire Louis, of Massachusetts, spoke on technological and business process changes that are creating opportunities and having an impact on the practice of actuarial evidence.

Towards the end of the day, I spoke at a session where I reinforced the theme of the common ground between actuarial evidence and other actuarial practice areas. In particular, this session explored whether the case reserve, a key operational metric of the property and casualty insurance company, is a bottleneck to communication between actuarial evidence practitioners and property casualty actuaries—two sets of actuaries with similar skill sets and much to share with each other.

Further Collaboration between Actuarial Practice Areas – and with Non-Actuaries

Gavin Benjamin and Jamie Jocsak, representing the designated group reviewing the pension commuted value standard, discussed the review of the standard—a review that will span both pension practice and actuarial evidence practice. Vocational rehabilitation expert François Laflamme provided an update on a key input that actuarial evidence practitioners receive from a complementary area of expertise. These sessions further reinforced the theme of interconnectedness.

Technical Sessions

The remainder of the seminar put the focus on technical sessions crucial to the practice of actuarial evidence. Sessions on marriage breakdown practice, damages in fatalities, and the impact of disability on earnings expanded the actuarial evidence tool kit.

Summing Up

The points of contact of the actuarial profession are many in the system of compensation for personal injury. Yet the specialization of our profession may be fragmenting our input into the efforts of governments to improve upon that system. The actuarial evidence area of practice plays a key role in the functioning of the system, and was pleased to host the wide variety of system participants for the discussion at the 2015 Actuarial Evidence Seminar.

The 2016 Actuarial Evidence Seminar takes place September 23–24 in Toronto.

Craig A. Allen, FCIA, is Chair of the Committee on Actuarial Evidence.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires