Blog 25: Programming as a skill by Xavier Lo FIA, CRM

As a quick follow up last week’s post, perhaps even a contradiction [矛盾] in some ways, I would like to add that coding is very important to an actuary’s skillset. You might think that you can leave coding to programmers [程序員], but actually that would be a very wrong train of thought!

Firstly, when we think about data science, big data or data analytics, we always talk about the programming language behind it. I don’t think anyone here can say that actuaries do not need to know any data analytics [數據分析] at all! In fact, if you think about it, actuaries were probably the first data scientists before the term “data scientist” was popularised!

Secondly, although a lot of programmers are most likely better at coding than you (an actuary), in practice what you’ll find is that programmers are not usually specialised in one industry. Hence they don’t necessarily have the business or market knowledge that we as actuaries do. This is where actuaries shine in the insurance industry: we have enough coding and technical knowledge [技術知識] to speak to the programmers, and we also have enough business acumen [商業知識] to communicate with the front-line teams [前線隊伍]. We are the important glue in the company!

So just briefly, what coding language [程式語言] is the best? Well, there are a lot of choices, like R, Python, SQL, or even Java and C. Although currently Python seems to be a popular choice due to its vast libraries [數據庫], I would say its best to start with the language that you find the most natural, as these languages probably will be able to perform most of whatever you want to code.

In a nutshell, do we as actuaries need to be experts in coding? Not really. But do we need to know this? Yes – just like with all other disciplines, we should at least have some working knowledge of everything in order to be the most respected profession! (in my humble opinion…)

Xavier Lo, FIA, FRM, MBA
Qualified fellow actuary (in UK and Hong Kong), Financial Risk Manager, and MBA graduate (listed on the Dean's List) with a passion for insurance, data science, and analytics. Experienced in a broad range of insurance roles (pricing, capital modelling, reserving, ERM), along with a touch of knowledge in banking. Member of the General Insurance Committee (2021), Actuarial Innovation Committee (2019 - 2021) in ASHK.
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