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Concordia’s $20,000-winning actuarial mathletes

The 2016 Munich Re Cup competition required top-of-the-line analytical, presentation and problem-solving skills
April 7, 2016
By J. Latimer

Four actuarial students from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics are celebrating a big win: they recently took home $20,000 from the second annual 2016 Munich Re Cup.

The Munich Re Cup — named after the sponsor, a global reinsurance company — is a national actuarial case competition open to teams from the Society of Actuaries' Centers of Actuarial Excellence. These are university and college actuarial programs that meet specific requirements related to degree, curriculum, graduate count, faculty composition, graduate quality and connection to industry and research.

“Concordia is one of eight Centers of Actuarial Excellence across Canada, and 30 worldwide,” says José Garrido, graduate program director and the first actuarial professor hired by Concordia back in 1986. “We’re the only English co-operative education program in Quebec.”

“Winning the cup proves that our program is focusing on the right things,” he says. “It was designed to provide students with an opportunity to develop and apply their analytical, presentation and problem-solving skills to a real-world business problem … And the $20,000 in prize money is pretty nice!”

On March 12, students David Tagliamonti, Jasmine Lemay-Dagenais, Roxanne Côté and Ryan D'Orazio represented Concordia in Toronto at Munich Re headquarters, where seven teams competed. Each team was given the same case to solve four weeks beforehand.

This year’s case was “Specialty Drugs: How Do You Manage the Risk?”

“Some new drugs are super expensive per treatment,” explains D’Orazio, a third-year actuarial student and a member of the Institute for Co-operative Education.

“So, how do we handle so many high-cost claims? We proposed providing less coverage for small claims, in a tiered solution that provides peace of mind. In addition, we proposed the implementation of certain drug-cost management strategies to decrease spending for both specialty and traditional drugs. These elements work in harmony to form a solution that is economically sound for the client, affordable for plan sponsors and attractive for plan members.”

Each team submitted a one-page executive summary, individual team member profiles and an electronic copy of their presentation.

“Munich Re liked that our team focused on the plan member — the end user,” says Tagliamonti, a team member and Co-op student, who is graduating in December. “The experience confirmed my belief that I’m going to like a career as an actuary.”

Lemay-Dagenais concurs. “Our team had the chance to work on a highly relevant issue to the group benefits insurance industry,” she says.

“Having each had different previous work experiences, all of us contributed differently to the project. It was definitely a rewarding experience, and we were able to obtain valuable feedback from the judging panel.” 

Most of the team members heard about the Munich Re Cup via the student newsletter produced by the Mathematics Actuarial Statistics Student Association (MASSA).

“To apply, we each wrote a one-page essay about why we wanted to compete, then we approached our program director, Patrice Gaillardetz,” says D’Orazio. “I learned so much, like the importance of taking a strong business perspective and taking into account how all parties are affected.”

Côté believes that one of the most valuable assets a student can have in her field is experience.

“This is mainly why I registered for the Munich Re Cup in the first place, which turned out to be a very gratifying experience,” she says. “Not only have I learned about the reinsurance industry, but I also gained a lot of analytical skills, creativity and confidence.”

The burning question: what are the students going to do with their $5,000 prize money?

“Invest it safely and wisely!” says Tagliamonti, with a laugh.

Learn more about actuarial mathematics at Concordia
and follow the Mathematics Actuarial Statistics Student Association (MASSA) to keep abreast of student events.



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