Mohammed Khan and Gary McInally
Q. How do you get 400 actuaries to work together at one week’s notice?
A. Issue a call to arms with a strong social purpose.
I’m not an actuary, but I promote their profession and in particular I promote the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group.
A week ago they put out this call to arms
As you will all know COVID-19 is putting a huge strain on Government agencies from the health service to local authorities to other agencies requiring mathematical and statistical skills.
We were conscious that in past times of national need, actuaries with the right skill sets have made a difference with the application of their skills to Government needs. Ten days ago we approached the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group to discuss what volunteer actuaries could do. Since then we have approached various Government agencies to understand what volunteer actuaries could help with. Examples from discussions we have already had (but not limited to):
- supporting service provision experts with organising the logistics of plans to e.g. provide food, medicine and critical services to vulnerable citizens who require to be “shielded” across the whole of society;
- Government agencies requiring people with actuarial, statistical and mathematical skills to understand the potential demand on their finances and service demand;
- the Royal Statistical Society has asked for people with experience of development of large scale dynamic models and integration with data science pipelines
We believe that key skillsets will be those with modelling experience. We also recognise that the more general actuarial skills we all take for granted, such as the ability to collate data, critically assess its value and produce simple spreadsheet models could also be invaluable in many areas.
What are we asking for?
From our discussions it is clear that government agencies want help and support. This is your chance to support the UK with our skillsets.
If you can volunteer at least 25% of your time to support the UK, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What we are looking for are actuaries who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved in modelling and data analysis. Although we will need actuaries with deep modelling expertise, please do volunteer even if you don’t feel that you have the greatest modelling skills. From our discussions, it is clear that Government could also use actuaries with data analysis and interpretation skills – these are skills that are core to what most of us do every day.
This is a critical time for the UK and from our discussions we have the skill set to be able to support and help the UK in its time of need.
Examples of Actuaries supporting nationally at times of extreme crises:
- During WW 2 actuaries analysed highly sensitive and critical data, often of limited quality, in order to inform decision makers. The record shows that those “drafted” from their offices to support were commended for making a disproportionally large difference to the war effort in both the UK and US;
- NHS and Welfare State – following the war, actuaries also played a key role in establishing the most ambitious comprehensive welfare system in the world;
- 2008 banking crisis – more recently, actuaries from a number of consulting firms were seconded to the UK Treasury to help establish the £540bn bank bailout package.
This is the response
COVID-19 – Exceptional Volunteer Response!
By Gary McInally and Mohammed Khan for
COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group – Learn. Educate. Inform. Influence.
One week ago, on the last day of March, the member-led COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group issued “a call to arms” to actuaries across the profession. The exceptional request for volunteers to support government agencies requiring mathematical and statistical skills across the health service and wider public sector, has been met with an exceptional response from members across the profession.
The Volunteer Response
At the time of writing more than 400 actuaries had expressed an initial interest in supporting this effort, with more than 350 of those responding positively to an initial short screening email. This is a truly exceptional response from the profession.
In addition to individual members, we have also had unsolicited offers of support from a number of significant actuarial employers. The volunteer group initiated by Gary McInally and Mohammad Khan have also joined forces with a small but active group of pro-bono actuaries led by Jonathan Halstead, who have been supporting decision making by an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group in the North West of England.
The initial assessment of the pool of volunteers from across life, pensions, general insurance and wider fields, provides an almost ideal with mixture of experience and skills:
- 30% senior qualified actuaries (typically 20+ years’ experience), with a great depth of knowledge and management skills;
- 50% qualified actuaries who have evidenced great technical skills and breadth of experience; and
- 20% are student actuaries at senior and junior levels, all of whom have stated a clear commitment to helping however they can.
The majority of the volunteers are resident in the UK and whilst all of the UK-based work is expected to be remote, we expect that EU residency will be a requirement for volunteers to directly support the public sector in the UK. We will be considering how to engage volunteers from other parts of the world, including Africa, the Americas, and Asia as well as more than 50 actuaries in India.
Given the volume of volunteers and requests for help we have had, we wanted to give you all a brief update on what we are doing. There are two main areas of focus:
- Considering where best we can help;
- Organising our volunteers into teams to best support the potential areas of help.
Considering where best we can help
There are currently three areas where we are already starting to provide support and where we believe we are best placed to use our actuarial skills to make a difference:
- Supporting NHS Regions – we have already agreed a basis of engagement and commenced activity to “bring the volunteers up to speed” with the requirements of an NHS Regional Planning Team and we will be doing this for more NHS Regions. The first tasks relate to improving the efficiency and usefulness of data capture and the production of daily “nowcasting” reports on the utilisation of critical resources. The team have also begun to understand the requirements for making best use of the epidemiological modelling carried out centrally to inform the planning and decision making at the regional, Trust and Hospital Level.
- Supporting an NHS GP Commissioning Group – we have developed two “transition state” models for a GP Commissioning Group in the North West of England to support decision making around the deployment of GPs. The modelling helped to determine that, even under a wide range of assumptions for uncertain factors such as infection transmission rates, a strategy of deploying a smaller number of GPs to the “front-line” with high-quality protection would provide lower GP sickness rates than if all GPs spent some time on the front-line.
- Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic (RAMP) – we have submitted details of the strength of volunteer resource available within the COVID-19 Actuarial Response group to the RAMP initiative, a centralised call for modelling and analysis expertise being co-ordinated by Royal Society. Our submission, along with those submitted by others, is being considered to prioritise areas that can best support the national effort to tackle the pandemic. The extent of the support that can be usefully provided by our volunteers will be better understood in the coming days and weeks.
In addition to the above we have also registered our member-lead group on the UK government volunteer register.
Organising our volunteers into teams to best support the potential areas of help
We are currently collating sufficient information about each of the members to support us putting together suitably structured teams of volunteers that can support decision makers in the public sector in an effective manner. We expect that each volunteer team will typically comprise:
- a lead senior actuary to help make communication effective and to co-ordinate the effort of the volunteer team;
- a number of qualified actuaries/data experts with an appropriate mix of skills for the task being supported; and
- one or more student actuaries to provide general support to the team.
We would ask all of our volunteers to bear with us whilst we organise a larger pool of resource than anticipated given the fantastic response. We expect to call on additional volunteers to help with this important activity to support those already as assisting in this way.
Thanks actuaries – I hope we’ll be able to toast you for your efforts by the end of this year