An Interview with Martijn Visser | Triple A
I had the opportunity to meet with Martijn Visser at Triple A. Martijn, who is quite familiar with the VSAE (not only being an Aenorm alumni, but also a board member in 2004), talked about his job at Triple A and new developments in the actuary department such as Software as a Service and artificial intelligence.
Can you tell me something about yourself?
Well, my name is Martijn Visser. I started my bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science at the UvA in 2001. In 2004 I did a board year at the VSAE and I’ve also been a part of the Aenorm committee during my studies. After I graduated in 2006, I was rowing for a while in combination with an internship at ING Microfinance. I worked as a work student at Tillinghast (later taken over by WTW) during my studies and after graduating. My job there mostly consisted of reviewing insurers and modeling. In 2012, I decided to take my profession elsewhere and I ended up at Nationale Nederlanden (NN).
The Solvency II law had just been entered into force and NN went public, so it was a really interesting time for the company. I worked at the intern consultancy team, but after three years I decided to look a little further. That’s when I talked with a former NN-colleague (who had also been a fellow student of mine) who worked at Triple A at the time. We noticed in the market that under Solvency II, modeling got a lot more focus. We thought it might be a good idea to start a team of people who were both qualified in IT and actuarial science. We started that team in 2015 as a team of 2 and it grew quite quickly.
Can you tell a bit more about Triple A?
Triple A is a risk-management consultancy firm. Triple A is active in multiple branches; Pensions and Insurance, Risk and Strategy Consulting, Banking, and Actuarial Technology. The people in all the branches work closely together. Furthermore, Triple A is a very young company, which results in a very dynamic and social atmosphere. There is not much of a hierarchy. I like the fact that if someone at Triple A has a great idea, pitches it to management and persuades them; they get the opportunity to carry out their plan. Just like I did in 2015! Triple A has grown quite a lot since the founding in 2006. They have since not only opened an office in Amsterdam, you can find Triple A in Warshaw, Barcelona, Madrid and Brussels.
I’ve actually had multiple encounters with Triple A before I started working here. After completing my studies, I had an interview at Triple A. It was a really pleasant conversation but Triple A had just been founded. Because I was a bit risk adverse as a real actuary, I eventually stayed at Tillinghast. I also had an interview with them when I was looking for a new job, but I ended up at NN. But the third time’s a charm; because when I got the opportunity to start that team at Triple A, I took it.
Can you tell something about the team you work in at Triple A?
I’m the business line chairman of the Actuarial Technology department. The team specializes in a combination of IT and actuarial sciences to develop software. These software developments are made to automate and accelerate their processes.
As I said before we started out with two people, but now the team consists of about 23 people. Most of the people in our team have a background in econometrics/actuarial sciences, but we also have some (applied) mathematics and computer science graduates. There are 3 work students in our team. One of the work students is looking at simulating the monte carlo experiment using machine learning for example. Another work student is looking at using the mathematical power of graphic cards and applying it to actuarial calculation purposes.
Did you study something IT related, next to your background in actuarial science?
I did not. At my first job I modeled and programmed a lot using Moses and C++. So I mostly learned it working-wise.
If I look at the team I work in, it mostly consists of IT’ers very interested in finance and actuaries who have always liked programming.
So your job is a combination of IT and actuarial sciences. Does that set Triple A apart from other consultancies?
I think it makes Triple A rather unique. Triple A, like other companies, used to combine all the actuarial skills within one team. The team that we created in 2015 has people fully focused on modeling and building software for actuarial purposes. Another thing that makes Triple A unique is the cooperation between us (our team) and other business lines. We work close together with other departments in Triple A and that makes our team very known with the contents of the reports. Still having input from our co-workers and having knowledge about what’s needed for reports helps us build better software.
One of the services Triple A provides is Software as a Service. What exactly is this?
Our team has two main services. One of those is that we help insurers and pension funds to develop their own software. On the other hand, we also develop ready-to-use software for our clients. Software as a Service is one form in which we can deliver that type of software. A client pays a license and is then able to use our software, for example in the cloud. This means that we maintain the software, update the software, etc. Triple A takes care of the front-end (website) as well as the back-end (mathematics behind the data). We offer this for multiple subjects. For example, the new pension legislation makes for the fact that pension funds have atransition from the old to the new situation. We offer them the software to do this! Triple A also offers customization of certain software for specific clients. So we enhance the software with custom pieces if the client requests us to.
How do you think consultancy will develop in the coming years?
Technology has been developing at high speed for a while now. I think this makes using technology more and more a skilled specialty; software and IT will demand more specialized knowledge. People will have to keep up with the developments, which means they should keep specializing as well.
For a consultancy all the new technological developments can be used in their models. Think of more computing power and faster models. I feel Triple A took a great step when specializing in the IT/actuary combination.
And what about artificial intelligence in the consultancy?
In the short term I do not see AI replacing consultants. We need real people to interpret the models. However, AI can take a lot of operational work away. Nonetheless it would take specialists who really understand the matter to monitor and control the artificial intelligence.
One of my coworkers actually spoke about artificial intelligence and ethics at the Actuary Congress hosted by the VSAE this year!