Retirement, superannuation, and data analytics insights from the 2022 UNSW Risk and Actuarial Industry Workshop

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Risk and Actuarial Industry Workshop held on 22 September brought together industry experts and leading academics to discuss current and emerging topics in retirement, superannuation, and data analytics.


Co-hosted by the UNSW School of Risk and Actuarial Studies and the Innovations in Risk, Insurance and Superannuation (IRIS) Knowledge Hub at UNSW Sydney, the in-person workshop attracted more than 60 participants from industry, government, and academia. The aim of the workshop was to develop existing and new partnerships between the UNSW School of Risk and Actuarial Studies and industry and explore opportunities for joint research and education initiatives. The workshop was built on the success of the first UNSW Risk and Actuarial Industry Workshop held in December 2021.

Expert speakers from industry, government and UNSW

The one-day workshop consisted of two main sessions, each containing short presentations from industry speakers and UNSW academics followed by Q&As, focusing on the following topics: Session 1: Retirement and Superannuation, and Session 2: Data Analytics.

The presentations were kept lightning short, with significant time allocated to Q&A. Lunch and various breaks provided opportunities to network. 

A welcome from the Head of School

Professor Bernard Wong – Head of School opened the workshop with an update on the UNSW School of Risk & Actuarial Studies’ activities, particularly emphasising the importance of finding areas of cross-over between academic research, education, and social impact and industry and policy engagement.

Leading examples include the establishment of the Innovation in Risk, Insurance, and Superannuation Knowledge (IRIS) Hub at UNSW that will facilitate and provide seed funding for such activities, as well as the Co-op and UNSW Sandbox Education programs (which systematically includes authentic industry problems into various courses).

(Attendees at the 2022 UNSW Risk and Actuarial Industry Workshop)

Comments from the Actuaries Institute

During the workshop opening, Mike Callan – Executive General Manager of Education at the Actuaries Institute, discussed how Actuaries use Data for Good and are both scientists and businesspersons.

Mike’s advice to academics was to take note of industry developments by participating in activities like Insight Sessions that the Actuaries Institute run regularly. In these sessions, industry experts help engage with academics on a range of topics and are more than happy to engage with academics pursuing deeper insights into models and underlying assumptions.  

Elayne Grace – CEO of the Actuaries Institute, shared insights from the recent celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the Actuaries Institute and how key events helped build the reputation of actuaries and provided a strong platform for future success.  Elayne also discussed the role of universities as strategic partners and that it’s exciting to see that universities are forging closer relationships with industry.

(Prof Michael Sherris presenting at the 2022 UNSW Risk and Actuarial Industry Workshop)

Summary of Session 1 on retirement and superannuation

Session 1 was opened by David Bell from the Connexus Institute, who explained how the Retirement Income Covenant had made retirement solutions an area of priority for super funds, pointing out that academia leads the industry on retirement research.

Andrew Boal from Deloitte discussed how superannuation funds could help retirees manage their retirement risks by taking advantage of guidance and advice. Andrew also showcased a calculator that can project retirement incomes while taking into account market uncertainty.

There was a lot of interest in the presentation by Shirley Chung from Cbus, who presented the Cbus Retirement Strategy. This was followed by presentations from Jonathan Ziveyi and Eric Cheung, both from UNSW Sydney, who presented on a new Markov Chain Monte Carlo framework for the valuation and assessment of retirement income products and equity-linked insurance products for couples, respectively.  

Guy Thorburn, the Australian Government Actuary, shared how the Australian Government Actuary has produced new life tables for cohorts of the Australian population and has conducted some preliminary analysis of applying this data source to retirees at the cohort level.
Fei Huang from UNSW Sydney commented on joint research with the Australian Government Actuary using the new life tables for mortality modelling with risk factors.

Finally, Michael Sherris from UNSW Sydney mentioned how he and his team had developed the Retirement Income Toolkit – a toolkit of R modules for researchers to use in modelling retirement and age care risks, simulating cash flows for a range of retirement and long-term care products.

(Networking at the 2022 UNSW Risk and Actuarial Industry Workshop)


Summary of Session 2 on data analytics

In Session 2, Victor Bajanov from Quantium emphasised fairness, privacy protection, and security among Australia’s AI Ethics Principles. The audience was keen to discuss how companies can be responsible for meeting these principles in data-driven decisions.

Estelle Liu from Aware Super highlighted practical applications of advanced analytics technology that improve business efficiency and support strategic decision-making in the retirement business.

Bernard Wong and Andrés Villegas, both from UNSW, presented their research on combining actuarial and machine learning techniques to problems in general insurance reserving and the oldest-old mortality modelling, respectively. In the data analytics education area, Danny Ma (Sydney Data Science; Data with Danny) shared his journey of becoming a consultant and teacher in data analytics. Patrick Laub from UNSW Sydney presented details on a new course on AI and Deep Learning for actuarial applications he delivered earlier this year.

Actuarial Co-op sponsors, alumni and students at the workshop

The workshop was attended by several sponsors, alumni and current scholars of the UNSW Actuarial Co-op program, including speaker Danny Ma.

The Co-op program is a strategic initiative between industry and UNSW to attract, train and develop the best young professionals. The Program develops the ‘complete’ graduate, offering a cohort of high-potential students an opportunity to combine academic excellence; real-world experience; leadership and professional development training; mentoring and networking opportunities; all before they graduate.

Please contact the UNSW Co-op Program if you are interested in learning more.

Next steps

We have made the workshop slides available to the workshop participants and will work on developing the new relationships formed at the workshop. We plan to hold a third similar workshop in 2023.

Retirement, superannuation, and data analytics were also featured at the 30th Colloquium on Pensions and Retirement Research, which was held from 29 November to 1 December 2022 at UNSW and online (1 December only). On 7 December, we will hold the UNSW Workshop on Risk and Actuarial Frontiers, where distinguished academics from the University of Amsterdam, HEC Montreal, Stanford University, and Columbia University, will present alongside UNSW Risk and Actuarial Academics.

Finally, academics in the School of Risk and Actuarial Studies are continually enhancing the learning of our students via innovations such as the UNSW Sandbox program – where real industry problems from partner organisations are embedded throughout various courses in the Bachelor of Actuarial Studies.

We will continue to liaise with industry partners to create these exciting authentic learning experiences, and in turn, allow our students to also provide additional insights for our partners.

Please contact us if you are interested in connecting with the UNSW School of Risk and Actuarial Studies.





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