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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

GI actuaries reunited

W hat is the point of an article about the
2003 GIRO conference, months after
the event? I expect the question feels faintly familiar to anyone who has ended up penning a year-end reserve report in the middle of summer, while wondering if the number of readers was ever going to reach double figures. In the absence of any guidance notes on articles for The Actuary, however, I intend not to worry too much about purpose. I hope a few observations on why GIRO 2003 was a worthwhile event will be acceptable, and may even encourage people to attend next year’s conference.

General interest
With over 300 people attending, GIRO 2003 was the biggest ever. Anyone moving in and out of the plenary sessions would have felt part of a throng and not just because people had to squeeze past all of the consultants’ exhibits, which were strategically placed in the foyer of the main conference hall. Considering, however, that those attending represent a majority of GI actuaries in the UK, it is an incredibly small group. Or should that be select? In any case, it feels a bit like a high school reunion, but with an unlimited licence to talk shop, as well as gossip.
For a newcomer, the thought of joining a group in which everyone else already knows each other might be off-putting. However, people tend to split into even smaller groups, according to their specialist interests, such as London Market reserving, personal lines pricing and risk management. It is easy to get to know everyone working in the same field just by going to all the related workshops. Aviation, E&O pricing at the Box, Lloyd’s realistic disaster scenario, asbestos those were just some of the workshops that kept the London Market actuaries happy.
Personal lines pricing actuaries were offered UK household, the cycle survival kit and UK European motor, among others. However, the hot topic of 2003 was anything to do with capital requirements, judging both by the number of related workshops and the number of delegates flocking to them. I expect that one of the side effects of the increased regulatory requirements will be that more and more of the smaller companies will take on GI actuaries. For actuaries who are the sole actuarial resource in their organisation, GIRO is particularly valuable as it provides a forum for the discussion of any issues that they may have.

Working parties
Another function of GIRO is to act as a birthplace for the Institute’s working parties. Certainly it is a lot easier to sign up for them at GIRO than to find out about them afterwards. The working parties provide both an ongoing opportunity for discussion during the year, and the basis for many of the plenary sessions at the next GIRO. In 2003 we had reports from working parties on operational risk, managing the reserve cycle, and international accounting standards. It would be too much to comment on all the plenary presentations individually, but I found three very memorable.
The report of the Reserve Cycle Working Party was intriguing for its suggestion that the strengthening of reserves during a hard market and their erosion in a soft market is not just an effect of management decisions, but of some feature in the data. This presentation led to an animated discussion afterwards about what that feature might be. ‘Views from the other side of the pond’, about the general insurance market in the US, contained a very clear exposition of the madness of the asbestos claims situation. The third memorable presentation was by Patrick Snowball, chief executive of Norwich Union, who gave the guest speaker’s talk and impressed through sheer force of delivery.

Blinding venue!
It occurred to me that any colourblind person staring at the backdrop in the main conference hall may have wondered why it was lit up in two psychedelic shades of grey. I would like to reassure them that this was nothing to do with the image of the profession, and everything with the national colours of Wales. Which leads me to the venue, Cardiff. It turned out to be a very elegant and vibrant place (and by that I don’t just mean the bar in the Hilton).
For anyone wishing to attend GIRO 2004 in Killarney, Ireland, but still needing to convince their boss to stump up for it, the clinching argument should be value for money. The fee for GIRO, which includes three days’ accommodation and meals, is almost exactly the same as the cost of a commercially organised conference of one-and-a-half days in London, without accommodation. In other words it is a bargain, and who can resist that?