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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Actuaries take over the dance floor!

GIRO 2004 took place in the ‘Emerald Isle’ in Killarney to be precise in October. The choice of venue prompted many moans and groans when it was announced in Cardiff last year. But in the end it produced a record turnout of almost 400 delegates. Obviously not too far to travel after all!

Black velvet?
Coaches greeted the throngs of delegates as they arrived at Cork and Kerry airports throughout the day. The journey to Killarney took some one-and-a-half hours for those arriving in Cork. With Guinness (the Irish nectar) and Champagne being served en route the journey was bearable for most. Those people who, like me, were lucky enough to arrive around lunchtime were treated to lunch at a traditional Irish pub. Things were looking up already.
The venue for the convention was the Hotel Europe, just outside Killarney. The hotel and Killarney were stunning. I am sure all would agree that the setting was picturesque and serene well, at least it was before 400 actuaries arrived!

The subject matter of the convention appeared to be split between Irish issues and the new capital requirements regime. The opening plenaries were aimed at the first of those themes, with three Irish guest speakers in Pat Healy, president of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland, Liam O’Reilly, Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, and Dorothea Dowling, chairperson of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. The list of guest speakers also included Marie-Louise Rossi from the International Underwriting Association and Andrew Darnton, senior statistician at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). The guest speakers provided an interesting mix of actuarial and non-actuarial perspectives.

This year’s convention continued the tradition of lively debates, including a debate on the issue of statutory certification of reserves obviously a contentious issue. This debate produced varied responses from the 400-strong audience and included many memorable quotations. A particular example was provided by David Sanders, who when asked why he wasn’t bothered whether they introduced a reserved role for GI actuaries, said: ‘I don’t think reserving is fun and I want fun at my age!’ Many contributions were made from the floor in each session without the need for strong-arm tactics from the chairperson. We hope this will continue.

Weather forecasting
The plenaries had become shorter this year, and more in number. The new format seemed to please everybody, and meant that we could discuss many more interesting topics. The convention started with a very memorable plenary from Harry Potter (aka James McPherson) and Armoghan Mohammed. The session, ‘That was the year that was’, showed that there was definitely a link between actuarial science and weather forecasting. Apparently the local forecast for GI actuaries is with Sarbanes-Oxley advancing from the US, Solvency II, IFRS, and IGD being on a front making its way north, and a stationary front made up of CP190 and broker regulation over the UK. A lot is going to hit us!

Ask the pope!
The other theme running through the convention was capital and reserving. Under the theme of ‘capital’ there were plenaries and workshops on the topic of ICAs and capital modelling, many involving rooms bursting at the seams. Andrew Smith, who had a few interesting ideas about whom you should speak to when deciding on your ICA, gave one such workshop. The list included Osama Bin Laden, the pope, Prince Charles, and Bill Gates.

For reserving we had a plenary and various workshops from the General insurance Reserving Issues Taskforce, or ‘GRIT’ as it is known. Apparently, however, a member of the taskforce has said that GRIT stands for ‘good reserving is tricky’ much more punchy!

A total of 27 workshops were given, showing the commitment and effort that the GIRO delegates had put into making the convention a success. Thanks to all who continue to do this.

As in previous years, awards were presented at the convention. The Brian Hey award went to the UK Asbestos Working Party, chaired by Julian Lowe. This had produced one of the largest-ever papers for GIRO over 200 pages, and also a working model to allow people to estimate their reserves for UK asbestos exposures. The plenary for this paper was thought-provoking and included a member of the working party showing the audience some asbestos samples.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to GIRO went to David Sanders. Following in John Ryan’s tradition of 2002, David tried to make a quick exit from dinner on Thursday just before the award!

Irish jigs and Father Ted
As usual it wasn’t all work at the convention: there were many things to do in addition to the plenaries and workshops. A relaxed evening reception was held at Hotel Europe on Tuesday, allowing people to see what the many exhibitors had in store for us. The stalls offered, among other things, table football, giant Connect-4 and Jenga, massage, and a chocolate fountain. I wonder which was the most popular? On Wednesday evening we were invited to a buffet dinner and ceilidh. Who can resist a little Irish jig? Well, not a large group of actuaries, obviously. Soon the actuaries were spinning uncontrollably on the dance floor. Unfortunately there are no pictures of this.

The grand finale in terms of entertainment was the gala dinner at the Hotel Europe on Thursday evening. This provided excellent food (all Irish of course) and entertainment by Joe Rooney, aka Father Damo from Father Ted. A great night appeared to have been had by all, especially those who ended up in the Grand, the local nightspot.

The convention closed with Institute president Michael Pomery speaking on the issues facing GI actuaries and the implications of the Morris Review. He also commended the GI practice area for our convention, saying that it seems to be setting standards for the rest of the practice areas, especially in terms of working parties. Let’s hope we can continue in this vein in Blackpool next year for the 32nd GIRO. Hope to see you all there.

Wendy Hawes is a general insurance actuary at the FSA and is a member of the GIRO Organising Committee and the Current Issues Committee