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Channel Surfing

by Richard T. Zatorski

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MY FIRST JOB IN INSURANCE involved the calculation of loss elimination ratios for the extended coverage endorsement of a dwelling fire policy. Sounds scintillating, doesn’t it?

However, without another job offer at the time, I hung in there. And over the ensuing years, I’ve watched my profession grow in stature and become recognized as a leader in the evaluation of complex risks. Earthquake and terrorism modeling, insurance-linked securities, hedging and derivatives, retiree health care, enterprise risk-management, and long-term care insurance are but a few of the topics on the current actuarial agenda.

Ron Pressman, president and CEO of GE Insurance Solutions, sees an increasingly important role for actuaries. At a recent meeting of the Casualty Actuarial Society, he remarked, “Actuarial science has perhaps never had a better moment to shine and lead in this industry...We ask our actuaries for leadership in a way we never have before. You’re not spectators or’re called on to be the conscience of this industry and our business.”

With such an ambitious challenge, I have an idea for the next step in defining our profession. Imagine, if you will, that you’re channel surfing one evening and you stumble upon a cable network devoted exclusively to insurance and actuarial programming. As you watch, you soon realize that this is not staid, single-camera coverage of educational seminars à la C-SPAN.

To your amazement, you learn that this network offers a full-fledged lineup of dramas, comedies, reality shows, news, and weather to rival those on the major networks:

Law and Order: Insurance Investigation, starring an ambitious district attorney tracking schemes of bid-rigging and finite reinsurance in stories “ripped from the headlines.”

The 441, a sit-com following the trials and tribulations of reinsurance actuaries and their families on the island of Bermuda, with episodes such as “Learning to Ride That Moped” and “Registering Your Unborn Child for Private School.”

Beyond the West Wing, a reality-inspired series, where government actuaries seek ways to reveal the true cost of social programs to the populace while evading detection by political appointees.

The next day promises to bring episodes of:

Real World: Hartford, a series depicting the relationships that develop among a group of 20-something actuarial students who live together while studying for their next exam;

Extreme House Makeover, a fantasy show where property insurers compete to pay claims and rebuild hurricane-damaged homes as quickly as possible;

Celebrity Poker, an insider’s look at the backroom pricing models of excess and surplus lines insurers.

Who could resist shows like these?

You learn that topical news broadcasts are offered by The National Underwriter, A.M. Best presents a weekly Upgrade/Downgrade Show, and the Weather Channel sponsors real-time hurricane tracking (under both the RMS and EQECAT models).

For movie fans, there are insurance adaptations of Back to the Future, about the inevitability of underwriting cycles, and Grumpy Old Men, featuring baby boomers caught without Social Security benefits thanks to a quirk in the actuarial funding formula.

And, of course, there are frequent reruns of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a retired actuary in About Schmidt and Russell Crowe’s role as a kidnap and ransom insurance specialist in Proof of Life.

I know. It sounds like nirvana, doesn’t it? A station like this might even make the remote obsolete.

In the September/October 2004 issue of this magazine, Patrick McGuigan wrote an article, “The Evangelical Actuary: A Call to Awaken the Quiet Profession,” in which he remarked: “Actuaries affect the lives of the average person in a myriad of ways, and yet the public has limited insight into this important profession…. The public’s perception of risk is askew, and the need for evangelical actuaries to disseminate the truth about risk has never been more pressing.”

I say, what better way to disseminate that truth than over the airwaves?

It’s time to let the secret out. Hollywood, here we come!

Note: Suggestions for innovative, actuarial programming may be sent to the editor of this publication. But if you’re considering anything co-starring Jennifer Garner as an actuarial student, I’m already way ahead of you.

RICHARD T. ZATORSKI is chief actuary at the Guard Insurance Group in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Suggestions for innovative actuarial programming may be sent to

Contingencies (ISSN 1048-9851) is published by the American Academy of Actuaries, 1100 17th St. NW, 7th floor, Washington, DC 20036. The basic annual subscription rate is included in Academy dues. The nonmember rate is $24. Periodicals postage paid at Washington, DC, and at additional mailing offices. BPA circulation audited.

This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. Opinions expressed in signed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official policy of the American Academy of Actuaries.

September/October 2005

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Just Whose Wonderful Life Is it, Anyway? The PBGCs Plan to Save Pensionville

The State of Managed Care Insurance: What Goes Up Must Come Down

Inside Track:
Bad Data


Social Security Super Bowl

Policy Briefing:
A Seat at the Table

Pension Simplification: The Factor of 11 and U.S. Pension Reform

Improving the Profitability of In-Force Long_Term Care Insurance Policies

Statistical Miscellany

Blueland Soccer Tournament

Channel Surfing

Past Issues

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