Data science is the combination of programming code and statistical knowledge to extract understanding and insight from data.
Data has always been a key part of the work of actuaries, and harnessing data science techniques enables GAD to work more efficiently and maximise the value of data for departments across government.
For example, the use of data science techniques allows us to use reproducible analytical pipelines to handle repeatable tasks effectively, and the use of modern coding languages allows us to create ‘self service’ dashboards for clients.
GAD recognises the important part that data science can play in how we process, analyse and gain insights into the high volume of data used in actuarial work.
As part of the GAD 2025 Strategy, we have committed to investing in data science expertise for our actuaries and analysts to ensure that GAD’s clients the highest quality of advice possible. In the rest of this article, we set out how our clients have already begun to experience the benefits of this commitment.
Recent data science projects
Building on the increased programming expertise required for data science, we have developed several dashboards which are used internally to automate processes which are repeated regularly. We have 3 main dashboards that we use for the public sector schemes that we manage.
We have created the dashboards using the open-source programming language Python. The dashboards use centralised code, so any changes to the model only need to be made once (rather than for each individual scheme). This saves a significant amount of time and ensures that our approach to all schemes is consistent.
1. Valuation calculations dashboard
By building these calculation routines into a structured model, we are able to ensure consistency of quality across all of the public service pension valuation calculations, rapidly update results for changing assumptions and instantly generate visual representations of the actuarial calculations.
This is brought together in our easy to use valuation calculations dashboard. It consists of drop-down menus and inputs which allow the user to select which scheme they wish to work on and what kind of analysis they want to carry out.
2. Analysis of experience dashboard
The analysis of experience dashboard is used to analyse changes in membership between valuations. It looks at how many members have exited the scheme and how that compares with what was assumed. This analysis allows us to adjust our assumptions going forward to reflect changing membership characteristics and ensure that appropriate contribution levels remain in place.
3. Retirement calculator
The McCloud legal ruling gives some pension scheme members the choice between benefits in two different types of pension scheme.
GAD’s retirement calculator has recently been upgraded by our data science specialists to improve the user experience. It uses Python to project the benefits that people will get at retirement in both schemes. This allows members to view what their own personal benefits will be and make an informed decision on which benefits they choose.
National Situation Centre
In addition to our in-house dashboards that have been developed, we have seconded staff to the National Situation Centre (SitCen). SitCen predict and manage developing crises in the UK. Our staff have used actuarial and data science skills to develop dashboards which support their analysis.