The ‘Actuaryland’ project

Could a theme park inspire the next generation of actuaries? In this satirical piece, Gavin Zhang and Harrison Gee plot a strategy of how a make-believe ‘Actuaryland’ theme park could help spark interest in the profession among 5-13-year-olds.

On a far-away planet, there exists a country named Bustralia (that is not Australia), curiously with identical economic, geographic and population characteristics to Australia. In this country there is a professional actuarial body, coincidentally with identical membership demographics, financial status and overarching purpose as the Actuaries Institute. It is known in Bustralia as the ’Actuarial Foundation’.

In this Actuarial Foundation (that is not the Actuaries Institute), a working group of enterprising young actuaries (known internally as ‘The Project Team’) has been tasked with exploring how best to tackle the issue of dwindling interest in the actuarial field. The chart below illustrates this trend.

Figure 1: Search volume for ‘Actuary’ vs ‘Astronaut’ from Hoogle Trends for the last five years.

Accordingly, they have made it a priority to explore various initiatives to redefine the ‘actuary’ brand to better promote the skills offered by actuaries and to grow the pipeline of actuarial students pursuing the profession. 

After significant discussion, one proposal was put forward that was unanimously accepted as best suited to achieving these aims – construction of a state-of-the-art theme park, on a scale unprecedented in the industry, called Actuaryland.

Background

After significant discussion, research and analysis, one stunning revelation uncovered by The Project Team was that all actuaries, were in fact, children at one stage or another. This discovery logically led the analysis towards the primary obstacle faced by the Foundation in the current landscape.

In a local focus group of young Bustralians (aged between 5-13), detailed questioning revealed that the most popular dream profession was ‘astronaut’ followed closely by ‘firefighter’, while actuary’ ranked #391, several ranks below even ‘Accountant’.  Notwithstanding that accountant comes before actuary in alphabetically ranked career lists, the low placement was of great concern. Upon conducting further interviews, the team discovered that the cause of this phenomenon could be attributed to two primary obstacles; no one knew what an actuary was, and actuaries were not perceived to be heroic. 

Aim of Actuaryland

Hence, the Actuaryland project was developed to radically reshape the reputation and understanding of actuarial work amongst younger audiences, ultimately promoting how truly imperative actuarial work is.  

Attraction #1

The primary attraction at Actuaryland attends to the pressing matter of lionising actuaries and popularizing actuarial work amongst children. By popular vote, the Foundation approved a way to achieve this was to erect a 100-metre-tall tower with a ring of seats, to which intrepid children would be seated, elevated, and ferociously shaken, as demonstrated here. To increase the effectiveness of this ride, a suggestion was raised to include speakers that provide helpful actuarial facts while the ride is in motion.

The intended objective of constructing such a ride is to induce intense emotions of exhilaration, promote adrenaline production and elevate dopamine levels, creating neural associations between thrill, and actuarial work. Similar to how astronauts and firefighters are popular amongst young children due to the fast-paced, emotional nature of the work, this ride subtly hints to children that roles such as pricing insurance products and designing sustainable retirement vehicles provides similar, if not greater social impact.

Attraction #2

The second ride to be included in Actuaryland aims to improve the knowledge children have of actuarial work. For this purpose, an underground cavern is to be dug, with a rail circuit spanning five kilometres running through it. Similar to Disney’s (who also happens to have a presence in Bustralia) ‘It’s a Small World’ ride, passengers will be provided examples of the various desks, computer screens and meeting rooms frequently used by actuaries. On the walls of the cavern, marketing material detailing the nature of work of the different actuarial practise areas can be put on display aiming to educate riders on the different facets of the actuarial pathway through which they can add tremendous value to society. Specialised marketing teams can be hired to ensure that such content is designed to be child-friendly and provide optimal engagement.

Also discussed was the idea of having an actuary mascot who will perform incredible feats of financial mathematics and technical presentations, much to the awe of his audience.

Location

Consideration of various construction locations have been presented and discussed, with three primary criteria being established. The first of these criteria is modernity, as to appeal to the younger audience. The second criteria of having high foot traffic goes hand in hand with this, maximising contact and interest with the target audience. Finally, the site must have close proximity to actuarial offices so that patrons of the park may feel inclined to further feed their newfound passion by visiting and admiring the majestic offices of major firms. One location in particular was agreed to fulfill all three criteria and was subsequently selected and approved by the Foundation. Our Bustralian readers may expect to see Actuaryland in construction on the roof of the Foundation’s Headquarters in Tydney – serendipitously close to the biggest opera house in the country – by next quarter.

Feasibility

Preliminary forecasts by The Project Team suggest that a positive return on this investment is expected to occur only 20 years after the opening of the theme park, as impassioned, aspiring actuaries enter the industry to make immense impacts on exam fee revenue and their chosen fields of practice. Other considerations included whether permits would be required and the morality of targeting such a young audience, however these were dismissed as trivialities of no concern.

Other features of Actuaryland are currently in development in this far away land. 

The Project Team welcomes actuaries universe-wide to submit any commentary, ideas or submissions to help Actuaryland reach its full potential.

Disclaimer: This expository article was (facetiously) written to explore how an extreme solution to a basic problem could be executed. Such a solution is clearly not practical; however it is the authors’ belief that effective solutions can be found through consistently challenging our cognitive biases. By pushing past the boundaries of what is considered practical, new and innovative ideas may form that can shape the future of what, and who, an actuary is. This article was one such exercise and aims to inspire other actuaries (young and old) to not limit their creative thinking.

 

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