Actuarial Hackathon

This is a guest post from my colleague, Zhan Wang, who was one of the organisers of our actuarial hackathon for our actuarial team. It was inspired by a number of the responses to this post, that asked how a team of actuaries could help the community.

03_Presentation On Friday 13th February we hosted a ‘Hackathon’ volunteer day to give back to the community.  The aim of the day was to utilise analytical skills that actuaries have to solve problems for not-for-profit organisations.

Thirty of us from NAB Wealth  – both actuaries and data analysts – were joined by representatives from four not-for-profit organisations.  It was inspiring and insightful to see how the not-for-profit organisations are helping people in our community, including:

We have also received data from a science researcher who is studying the population of koalas in the Coffs Harbour area.

After a brief getting-to-know-each-other session, we split into teams and started to combat the problems and challenges facing these organisations.  Since we are known for our analytical expertise and as skilful users of spreadsheet and databases, the problems we solved were mostly associated with these aspects. Examples included:

02b_Goup_WorkUsing the tools: how can we better link tools together, for example, from databases to spreadsheets, to be more efficient in our calculations?  What is a better way to structure the tools and/or the process?  Can we use a macro instead of manual work?

Koalas: is the population of koalas in the Coffs Harbour area really increasing over time? Is it that more koalas are seen over the years, or people are forgetting they have seen koalas in the past?  What is the implication if the forgetfulness rate is 35% p.a., compared to 24% p.a.?

A good beginning for children: how can we compare one program to another, on achieving the outcomes to support children being loved, safe, healthy and learning?  What are the likely financial implications, to the children and to our society, if children have a higher chance of finishing university?

Change in Funding Arrangement: what impact does a change from upfront funding to paying by instalments have?  How does a Social Benefit Bond work?  How do we manage cash inflows and outflows which happen on different dates?

Collecting Data: what is the critical information about teenage girls who may be at disadvantage?  What questions should we ask them?  How are these questions related to our support program?  How should we collect the information?

Fundraising Campaigns: how successful have our past telemarketing campaigns been, in terms of cost-benefit analysis?  How can we use past campaign results for future ones?  What are the likely factors leading to a more successful campaign?

The Hackathon volunteer day was a great success to both the not-for-profit organisations and our team.  We are very pleased to see that our skills were of use for benefits of some great causes, and a few of us volunteered to do some extra work following the session.  We are also looking forward to organising it again with more people involved, and have already received suggestions for what we can do for the next event from some of the non profits!

Simon Faivel, from Social Ventures Australia, commented: “Whether we are insuring people’s lives or understanding the social impact of programs, we need to make judgements about the world around us. And we all want better data to make more informed judgements. Our day with the actuaries team at nab helped us recognise that we are not alone!”

Martin Predavec, upon receiving analysis we have done for the koalas’ population in Coffs Harbour, commented: “That is wonderful. Thank you. The answer fits with what I was expecting and the idea of using the actual data to calculate the rate of forgetting is very smart… Currently we only go back to 1990, but this analysis allows us to extend it a further 10 years.”

We position our team at NAB Wealth as the trusted advisers to the business, by providing actionable insights through information.  The Hackathon day was a great opportunity to extend this mission to the wider community.

As the recent Actuaries Institute campaign says: “Data is in high demand.  But not as high as the people who can make sense of it”.  We were pleased and excited that we have shared with the not-for-profit organisations to “see what we see”.

The Hackathon day was made available through NAB’s skilled volunteering program offered to all employees.  It is a great example of how big organisations and professional people can participate and contribute back to the community.

  1 comment for “Actuarial Hackathon

  1. Young Goh
    March 4, 2015 at 12:13 am


    I was so encouraged to read this. What a great initiative. Well done!!!


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