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What Automation Means for Actuaries

Actuarial Science is a study and career that takes years of dedication. Where in the past becoming an actuary was always seen as a stable and strong career choice, it has now been thrown into the gauntlet of automation. With the advancements in computing and AI it is little wonder the spotlight has fallen on one of the most sought-after careers. However, actuaries and students should fear not as instead of actuaries becoming relics in some Asimov-inspired world, automation could help discipline and improve professional and personal life.

What is Automation?

Automation is the general term for the movement of jobs from humans to robots. While it may seem far-fetched, there have already been rudimentary cases of robots performing human jobs. From the release of Waymo’s self-driving cars to Ross, the IBM Watson-Powered lawyer, there are countless examples of machines taking their first steps into the working world.

With the rise of the machines, there has been plenty of publicity on both sides, for and against. Critics speak of how it may put a huge number of people out of work and exacerbate the divide between rich and poor. There is even a website, called Replaced by Robots that tabulates hundreds of jobs and ranks them on the likelihood to be replaced by AI employees. Fortunately, according to this site, there is only a 21% chance of automation when it comes to actuaries.

Supporters believe automation will only take over mundane tasks and liberate the workforce to concentrate on blue sky thinking and advancement. Some even think machines may be the key to unlocking a society with universal income guaranteed.  

Is It All Bad?

Whatever your personal stance, actuaries will find automation a massive boon. Automation already exists in the industry with an IFoA survey discovering that 50% of the people surveyed identified their work makeup as ‘50% manual and 50% automated’ while a further 20% identified as ‘mostly automated with little manual work needed’. The reason for this co-dependence between man and machine came down to two factors; the quality of the data and reporting.

Even with machines managing data, human control is still needed for the likes of QRTs, translation from GAAP/IFRS to presentations and general information management. Machines may be able to process complex mathematical problems but lack the critical eye to understand and interpret the results. This is the reason actuaries can rest easy at night, safe in the knowledge that their roles are protected. What’s more, most participants agreed that automation would help them do the tedious work faster and allow more time for deep analysis. Topics such as market price reconstruction, advanced claim handling, investment allocation, fraud detection and market research will become the mainstay of actuaries across the world leading to a golden age of development.

What is The Future of Actuarial Science?

PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken this research one step further with an eye cast forward to the mid-2030s. Their model works on a succession of waves felt throughout the next few decades. The first wave is already in effect with exploratory projects and predictions about what is to come. The second wave is expected to hit Britain in the late 2020s which will impact repeatable tasks and information exchange. This will coincide with a proliferation of drone jobs, robots in warehouses and semi-autonomous vehicles on public roads. The third wave is set to hit UK shores by the mid-2030s and will introduce AI that will be able to analyse multiple data sources, make executive decisions and complete physical actions.

This third wave will impact up to 30% of the workforce in a positive manner. PwC sees sectors like transport, manufacturing and retail at the top of the automation list with men the gender most likely to be affected. These new technologies could boost productivity, income and wealth with economic modelling suggesting job losses will be offset by the liberation of business and job creation.

Whatever your feelings about automation it is not a matter of if, but when it will impact actuaries. Do you feel automation is taking over your job? Discuss it in our forums. Actuaries Online is always looking to move the dialogue forward with forums and CPD opportunities to keep you ahead of the curve. There is no time like the present to get yourself up to speed with current trends and ensure you, your team and your business are ready for life in an automated world. 

9 months ago