Carolina and Antony recently represented Star Actuarial at the 2012 Pensions Conference in Brighton. Read Carolina's summary of the conference below:
The conference started off with a fun night of dodgem cars, miniature golf and games. As is always the way at the stalls, the games were designed to be almost impossible to win. Our MD Antony got lucky though!
The conference got off to a powerful start with Dr Amlan Roy talking about the importance of “Global Demographics” and how this impacts individuals, families, corporates and countries. With the aid of various charts and Amlan pacing around the hall, we were able to understand how the UK fits on the world stage in terms of longevity, expenditure and consumer behaviour.
I enjoyed chairing the “Structural Mortality Models” workshop delivered by Jon Palin – an interesting explanation of how structural models have evolved from existing models. Also used in the analysis of pandemics, these models are statistically based and incorporate information on future changes in lifestyle, medicine and other vitagions (RMS coined the term vitagions to represent individual sources of mortality improvement). We’re all aware that the lifestyles we adopt could affect our mortality however, it was also interesting to hear that social structures themselves affect mortality. Uncertainty is an integral part of the model, relating changes in future longevity to real-world scenarios and in particular offering the possibility of segmented mortality improvements.
We then moved on to think about pensions in wider contexts, attending the “Resource and environmental limits to economic growth” workshop. With pre-funded pension promises based on the assumption that exponential growth of the economy will continue, we were challenged on whether our assumptions about exponential investment returns are realistic. Might we actually hit biophysical limits to growth within the next few decades? I’m not sure whether it was the implications for actuarial advice or life itself that dominated most reflections, but it certainly gave actuaries a lot of food for thought.
The afternoon kicked off with the second Plenary session on “Building a sustainable pension system” shortly followed by the Hot Research topics. I chaired the “Solvency II for pensions” topic which was well attended by all the curious pension actuaries eager to understand what they may need to start thinking about/discussing with their clients. The Working Party presenting was very keen to get the discussion fired up and listen to the ideas on the floor – a great interactive session!
Following the first day of great talks and discussions, the evening meal concluded with Monty Hall giving the after dinner speech. Monty shared stories of his crazy adventures and how he dealt with challenging situations in which he lived and worked in remote parts of the UK and Ireland with his dog and best friend Reuben.
With the high quality of sessions this year it’s difficult to pick a favourite, however the Plenary at the start of day two is definitely a contender. “Our Professional Future” described the careers of three actuaries and how their skill sets have been used in non-traditional roles.
I then chaired a great interactive session on “Dealing with change and the unexpected”, which gave us the opportunity to share experiences and ideas on how to identify our options, take stock and plan. The workshop after this, on “Identifying and tackling ethical dilemmas in pensions”, led to a series of debates with actuaries from different backgrounds brainstorming ideas.
We ended the conference on a high note: Day 3's “Current Economy” plenary with the Times’ writers Oliver Kamm and Danny Finklestein. Everybody was really looking forward to this and they didn’t fail to deliver! Danny highlighted that in cultural anthropology and sociology, reciprocity is a way of defining people's informal exchange of goods and labour – common to all the stakeholders involved in pension schemes. For example, members of pension schemes want to know and understand what they are getting back for the contributions they have paid in! A great way to end a jam-packed Conference with lively discussions and lingering thoughts.