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35 Years Ago, my department functioned with 3 actuaries. Today, with vastly improved computing power, we have about 75. Why do we need so many more? Is a lot of it administrative bloat? Are your companies similar?

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As a non actuary said at my old company, “why has your department doubled in size but our premium hasn’t doubled?”
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I actually think the role has expanded dramatically.  Some of the older guys I work with pride themselves on their Lotus 123 spreadsheets that ran the IBNR figures, but they couldn't tell you jack squat about any details if it wasn't spat out by a formula.

How many claims do you have that meet X Y and Z characteristics that are only posted at signal reserves?  What policy types are driving our adverse AvE results?  How has our variable commission structure impacted our BECRs on this subset of the portfolio?

The increased computing power certainly makes the base tasks easier, but it means we have more time & resources available for more intensive (and arguably valuable) investigations.  And Actuaries are the perfect resource that kind of straddles the 'data science' and 'business' portions of carriers, so we have grown in value due to our skillsets.
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Life actuary— don’t think we have bloat. In fact, I find a lot of roles are very short-staffed.

I think the landscape has changed a lot from 35 years ago. We have more demanding and shifting regulations. We have competitive pressures.

Furthermore, I would argue our increased calculative capacity with computers has only increased work. Whereas before, we might have only ran a few manual calculations, running several thousand stochastic scenarios and projections are now common for business decisions. It takes more expertise and more knowhow to do that, not just actuarially but also with the software itself.
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As long as the majority of life/health actuaries are using Excel, more computing power wouldn’t necessarily decrease the number of working staff.
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Manual processes, trash data, unsound analysis, indecisiveness on behalf of management/decision makers.

Honestly it’s a wonder more of us aren’t needed. In a perfect world where we’re all programmers living in a perfectly sanitized data environment making good strategic decisions, sure. But have you seen the state of things at most companies? Every company I’ve ever worked for has been in the process of “modernization”. It never ends.

The data needs to be checked and double checked endlessly. Then when management sees the results of one analysis, they start playing the “what if” game. And around we go till finally - oh shit another data error. Ok now the analysis says we should do X. Ehhh… management doesn’t like that. Let’s see what it looks like if we do scenario Y. Wait no the regulators would never go for it. Ok let’s do Z… 2-3 months after starting we have our proposal.

The real world is messy.
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In 1987, you had three socially inept but brilliant dorks who had to be tucked away in a back room closet somewhere because the normies didn’t want to talk to them and vice versa.  They used the tech of the time to develop a pricing plan with about 5 rating variables. If it wasn’t math or stats, they didn’t do it.  These people were not easy to find if you wanted to hire one.

In 2022, management at your company has hired slightly less brilliant but far more socialized actuaries and realized that they have tons of good uses. Reporting, reinsurance analysis, ERM, strategy, etc.; plus they can put a unique pricing actuary managing dozens of rating variables on nearly every state.

It’s a completely different talent pool and the market has evolved.
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I think a big part of it is product complexity, regulatory requirements, and financial reporting requirements.

Some of our products are so complicated that we more or less had to shift our modeling software because the one we'd been using for years just wasn't capable of doing the forecasts within a reasonable runtime anymore. This created a big need for modeling actuaries and people to run all the new processes and analyze the results.

Regulations have also gotten much more strict and demanding over the decades. With the failures of certain insurance companies having devastating impacts on the financials of the country and beyond, the US regulatory environment has created much more red tape. Whether you agree with it or not, we are legally required to do some of our calculations in a more "conservative" way and also report significantly more of our analyses to regulators in very particular ways that require a significant amount of man power to manage. We have entire teams who spend much of their time doing these kinds of tasks.

Financial reporting has gotten more standardized for various reasons. We are required to create and maintain more financial reports and memos than ever. With ever-changing technology, it's genuinely difficult to ensure that we aren't sacrificing our ability to build these legally required reports whenever we make various "upgrades" to our tools and systems.

Overall, the insurance and governmental landscape have created a lot more demand for the type of work that actuaries do. More competent analysts and programmers with formal financial knowledge/experience are needed now than ever to complete what, at first, seemed like a simple task.

I'm sure I missed a lot of important reasons there, but those are the first few things that popped into my head when I thought about your question.
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Not sure if this applies to Life, but I’d think the overall marketplace has changed in 30 years with fewer companies grabbing the majority share of customers using highly specialized products that have greater volatility and increased risk. Health at least has substantially changed since the 1980’s.
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I work at a company with over 100 actuaries and we desperately need more
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With improved productivity within a profession, there are one of two things that could happen:

1. You cut costs and have less personnel as you can get the same amount of value as before for less.

2. The expected value of each employee increases, so you hire more.

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