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Actuarial Roller Coasters—GIRO 2005
Kendra Felisky with additional reporting by Kate Angell  

Blackpool was the place to be seen this year for all actuaries working in general insurance. The annual gathering of general insurance actuaries took place in October where we were provided with typical British seaside weather for the duration of the conference. This was the largest General Insurance Research Organising (GIRO) Committee Conference ever with over 400 delegates attending and a waiting list of people keen to attend should anyone drop out.

GIRO 2005 kicked off with an informal buffet reception that gave everyone a good opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and to browse the GIRO exhibition. The exhibition has become a welcome addition to GIRO in recent years, giving competitive actuaries plenty of opportunity to show off their skills and possibly win a prize. Games to try this year included golf, air hockey, motor racing, multi-track scalextric, and a James Bond shooting competition. For the less competitive, there was also a palm reader and a chocolate fountain.

The first session of the conference included a stimulating and sometimes controversial talk by Shirley Beglinger on the "Regulation of the Non-Life Insurance Industry." This session also included presentations from two working parties, The Application of Strategic Models to Non-Life Insurance Markets Working Party and the ICA Guidance Note Working Party.

The next plenary session began with a talk on the financial risks of climate change-one of the increasingly hot topics in our industry particularly given the number of weather-related catastrophes that have occurred recently. Dr. Sebastian Catovsky of the Association of British Insurers gave this interesting presentation. An update on Solvency II followed.

A main theme of the conference was the work of the GRIT (General insurance Reserving Issues Task force) as a session was devoted to this topic as well as a number of workshops were held on specific subtopics. Together, they enabled GRIT to receive a large amount of feedback from practitioners who would be affected by the proposals put forward by GRIT in its July consultation paper.

GRIP—standing for General insurance premium Rating Issues working Party—gave an update on the work done so far. GRIP has been given the task by the General Insurance Board to look into a number of issues around premium rating in general insurance, including the role of the pricing actuary, the methods used, and professional guidance in the area.

If you don't know what a wiki, blogging, RSS Feeds or "R" are then the next presentation would have been the session for you an extremely informative and enlightening talk by the Maths Toolkit for Actuaries Working Party.   

The General Insurance Guidance Note Working Party set out the proposed changes to the general insurance guidance notes, which includes a proposed new "Principles and Practice" guidance note which is "always on."
This was the largest General Insurance Research Organising (GIRO) Committee Conference ever with over 400 delegates attending and a waiting list of people keen to attend should anyone drop out.

The final session of the conference was a feedback session on the future strategy of the profession hosted by the president of the Institute of Actuaries, Michael Pomery. This feedback session naturally resulted in a large number of contributions from delegates and could have lasted for much longer than the allocated time. The comments from the floor seemed to concentrate on three main areas: the desirability of the current cross-subsidy that supports the compliance activities of the profession, the possibility of having university-only provision of the core technical exam subjects, and whether the profession should try to expand its overseas membership. This resulted in a very interesting session, which hopefully provided the profession with some useful feedback from some of the actuaries who work in general insurance.

Throughout the conference, the sessions were interspersed with smaller workshops, run by a combination of working parties and individuals. Over 40 workshops were run throughout the conference, covering a diverse range of topics including ICAs, reserving uncertainty, pricing issues, claims inflation, Lloyd's, Irish issues, schemes of arrangement, regulatory issues and strategic modelling. The number of workshops and the wide range of topics show the dedication of the general insurance actuarial community to helping make GIRO the success that it is.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in the conference and, in particular, the younger members were encouraged to speak in the plenary sessions by tempting them with the possibility of winning an iPod. I'm not sure exactly what the definition of a younger member is, but I am slowly coming to the realization that it no longer includes me!

The first evening's entertainment, as usual for GIRO, consisted of something for which the conference location is particularly renowned. It started with a bus ride to the pleasure beach where delegates had the option of enjoying the Big One or one of the other, rather more sedate, rides. After this, we all headed to the Paradise Room at the pleasure beach to enjoy a typical fish and chip supper with mushy peas included and not a plate in sight! Those actuaries with the stamina then headed on to Club GIRO. Unfortunately there are no photos of this event, although I've been told that some of the dance moves were extremely unusual, even for actuaries.

The last night's entertainment consisted of a black and white conference dinner where everyone was encouraged to wear either black or white or a combination of both. Some people were clearly well prepared for this—for others it consisted of wearing what they could find in their wardrobe on the night before leaving for GIRO when they finally got around to reading their joining instructions and realized—a little too late—that the helpfully ambiguous smart casual dress code had been changed for the gala dinner this year. The dress code added an interesting element to this year's dinner—although, disappointingly, there were no storm troopers or penguins!

During the conference, initial meetings for GIRO 2006 working parties were held. Hopefully these working parties will soon be fully up and running so that next year's GIRO convention, due to be held in Vienna,

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