Actuarial Reports: Specification and Planning

Actuarial Reports 01

Simplify the problem

Actuarial papers can have many different tasks and a range of stakeholders. Before you wade into the report and try your best to keep everyone happy all the time, it can be helpful to step back and try to articulate why and how your report is complicated.

A technique called a ‘complexity heuristic’ provides a framework for thinking about the report through different lenses. For example: 

Aspect

Complexity Indicators

E.g. A Reserving Board Paper

Goals

Number of Goals & Constraints

Many! Explain approach and results; keeping Board happy in terms of relevance and impacts; satisfying TAS requirements.

Ambiguity of Goals & Conflicts

Some goals are ambiguous: Keeping Board happy

May be conflict between goals: Explaining actuarial methods while keeping it readable.

Data

Number of Objects and Interactions

Lots: Only focus on most material items?

Amount of Ambiguity

Perhaps.

Process & Approach

Amount of Memory or Feedback Reactions

Built on experience of other interactions with Board.

Number of Deliberate Action Choices

Unless very familiar with Board, probably take advice!

Number or Degree of External Effects

Significant number: Previous reserving actuary / TAS / requests from customers / other Board Papers

Communication

Explanation Requirements

Very High: Expect the people who would need to get the most from it will not be actuarial technicians

Explanation Ambiguity

Very High: Need to be careful that in simplifying things you don’t lose something important or create new ambiguities or permit incorrect conclusions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having worked out exactly why your report is complex before you start writing can help you plan how you can best manage this complexity.

Consider the structure

Now consider the high-level structure of your report. Consider what it is you are trying to achieve, and review what information is required in your report to achieve that. Be bold and leave out anything that does not directly support your report’s objective. Think about what needs to be in the main body of the report, and what can be left in an appendix, or just signposted as being available in other reports. 

Consider key messages

Next, consider what your key messages are. To ensure your overall conclusions are clear, start with the ending. What message do you want your readers to take away from your report? In structuring your report around this goal, the aim is to ensure that your report flows in a clear narrative for the readers. 
A traditional actuarial report structure might describe the activities that the author has undertaken in order to produce the analysis. For example:
 

Busy executives will have lots of papers to review and will be looking in vain for something telling them what the value of your paper is to them and their business. They will be looking for conclusions that include something tangible about what the analysis might mean for their business.

 An alternative narrative structure that might appeal more directly to readers would be as follows:
 

Consider user requirements

Referring back to the user analysis you completed earlier, consider how you can engage all your users with your report. This may be through providing clear high-level summaries backed up by additional detail for those readers who would benefit from it. Storytelling is a way to engage readers in your narrative.
 

Understanding TAS requirements

Finally consider the Technical Actuarial Standards (TAS). TAS should not be a reason to simply write out lots of technical caveats for the sake of it. Ask yourself what is really required for TAS compliance. Don’t rely on last year’s paper, your memory, or an abbreviated checklist – take a fresh look at the full TAS requirements and think about what they mean for the report you are creating.

Ensure you consider your readers when applying TAS. For example, instead of simply stating limitations and providing ranges of uncertainty, think about what those items mean for your reader and what they will be doing with your analysis. In this way, TAS will become a way of helping you get your messages across, not a bureaucratic or tick-box exercise. 

 


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