Actuarial Hackathon Presentation Showcase 2018!

The 2018 Actuarial Hackathon saw 18 teams of actuaries solve practical challenges posed by not-for-profit organisations. From rap skills to wigs, it was an insightful, rewarding and entertaining showcase night! Angela Poon reports.

With 95 actuaries from 38 different companies volunteering their time, the Actuarial Hackathon was a huge project which tackled 18 different challenges from the social sector.

After spending a month understanding the organisation’s needs, brainstorming and researching various approaches and finally addressing the problem, the teams presented their findings at the inaugural Actuarial Hackathon Showcase!

Jennifer Lang introducing the participating NFP organisations


30 representatives from not-for-profit organisations joined the actuaries in attending the (non-competitive) Showcase held at the UNSW CBD campus on Tuesday, 5 June 2018.


Over 100 people attended the Showcase!


It was a truly inspiring evening seeing the amount of effort each team put in to create efficient tools, gather meaningful insights and suggest actionable recommendations to further the not-for-profit (NFP) organisation’s social impact.

It is estimated that actuaries have altogether volunteered over 1,000 hours to the social sector as part of the Hackathon this year.

One team was particularly innovative in their presentation where they not only developed a functional and efficient quoting tool for the NFP organisation, but also wrote their own lyrics, rapped live with a guitar and even created a product video to showcase their tool! It just goes to show that actuaries can be analytical, creative and daring at the same time!

Analytical, creative and daring actuaries who rapped their presentation!

What were NFP organisations asking?

This Hackathon reaffirmed that actuaries can utilise their skills in answering some of the questions the NFP organisations are asking.

For example, actuaries were able to:

  • Analyse donor profile, retention and lapse rates and estimate return on investments of various types of donors. One team found that lapse rates were lower for direct debit donors compared to those who donate through credit card as credit cards were often cancelled when promotional offers were available elsewhere.  This team asked whether changing the default billing options would improve fundraising efforts.
  • Understand the costs and benefits of volunteers by developing a framework to calculate the social return of investment on volunteers. One team found for their NFP organisation that female volunteers aged 40 and over had the best retention rates.
  • Provide insights into the composition of the NFP organisation’s clients and why they are utilising the organisation’s services. The team also suggested ways on how the organisation can further their reach.
  • Analyse survey results and teach the organisation how to reduce survey bias and generate statistical summaries themselves. The team created a promotional flyer which included statistics on the positive impacts of their program.
  • Estimate the economic costs of brain cancer to society to support the organisation’s application for funding.

What did the participants think?

The Hackathon was extremely well received and we would like to share with you the following feedback from the representative of a NFP organisation and an actuarial volunteer.

Julia Filipi Dance, Manager, Disability Operations from The Benevolent Society (pictured below right)

It’s been fabulous working with the team of highly skilled actuaries. The quoting tool that they have developed for The Benevolent Society simplifies the use of the complex NDIS price guide and vastly improves our enquiry management process for disability services. It will be great to be able to put the old fashioned calculator down and spend the time to listen to what the client wants, without being encumbered by clunky calculations. I have never been involved in a Hackathon before, it was really refreshing to learn and collaborate with such an innovative and creative team of experts to create something so useful in such a short time frame.

Minh Phan, Actuarial Volunteer (pictured below with guitar and in the above video of the RAP SONG!)

What I like most about the Hackathon is that it allows actuaries a direct and simple way to connect and contribute to the not-for-profit sector. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed working with my team and The Benevolent Society… Although the Hackathon is officially over, the journey doesn’t end here for us. We’re excited to be working with the team to embed the tool firmly into their operations… Overall, I think that the Actuarial Hackathon is a fantastic initiative and the organising committee did an amazing job running the inaugural event…looking forward to doing it all again next year! 

Although this marks the official conclusion of the Actuarial Hackathon this year, some teams are still volunteering their time to help their NFP organisations.

Some words of gratitude

We are very excited that our first Actuarial Hackathon was a huge success and we would like to thank the following groups in making the event possible:

  • The NFP organisations and their representatives who offered real challenges and generously provided guidance and feedback to their actuarial teams: Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Cancer Council NSW, CanTeen, Compassion Australia, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, Life Changing Experiences Foundation, Opportunity International Australia, Starlight Children’s Foundation, The Benevolent Society, The Fred Hollows Foundation, The Heart Foundation, Wesley Mission and Youngcare.
BELOW: Representatives from the Starlight Children’s Foundation showed their appreciation to their volunteers with beautiful balloon blooms!
  • The 95 Actuarial volunteers who volunteered their time and skills which we are extremely grateful for! We are also extremely proud of the 14 interstate volunteers who had to work together via teleconference and also watch the Showcase via Webinar.
  • Finity Consulting for sponsoring the event and sharing their proprietary data analytics product, Defin’d, with one of the teams.
  • The Actuaries Institute for supporting us in the planning and organisation of the Hackathon.
  • The Hackathon Organising Committee who have been working tirelessly for more than half a year to recruit NFP organisations and actuarial volunteers, organise logistics of the event and provide support to the volunteer teams: (left to right, Zhan Wang, Sam Maitra, Alice Truong, Leonard Seok, Angela Poon, Stephen Lau, Jennifer Lang, Lily Meszaros, Emily Law, Lisa Ye). Avanti Patki, Desmond Muzorewa and Sarah Highet were also on the Committee.

Cross sector collaboration

This event has demonstrated that actuaries and NFP organisations can engage in meaningful cross sector collaboration. I hope this Hackathon has inspired actuaries to utilities their skills to add value and further the positive social impact for the benefit of our society!

As Arthur Ashe once said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”.

Until next time!

Representatives from the Fred Hollows Foundation and their volunteers from left to right: Calise Liu, Susie Amos, Uday Soni, Steve Martin, Katie Hart, Justin Portelli, Alan Xian
Srikar Velivela, Daniel Luo, Wei Zhao and Lisa Ye, co-ordinated in red and white for Heart Foundation
Gary Zhang and Roger Xie representing Team Wesley Mission #2
Evelyn Augustin and Claire Greenwell representing Team Wesley Mission #1


Related reading:
  • Thirty actuaries and data analysts from NAB Wealth were joined by representatives from four NFP’s in the 2015 Actuarial Hackathon
  • Sarah Highet speaks to three Actuaries working in Not for Profit roles, motivated by a desire to use their skills to help people less fortunate than themselves.
  • Jennifer Lang shares the results of a Member survey in 2017 aimed to gather information and determine the level of interest in (what resulted in) this 2018 Actuarial Hackathon.

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.