Welcome to the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) blog. The IMA is the UK's learned and professional society for mathematics and its applications. We promote mathematics research, education and careers, and the use of mathematics in business, industry and commerce. Among our activities we produce academic journals, organise conferences and engage with government.

In this blog we will publish mathematical articles and news to reflect the interests of our members who come from a multiplicity of different organisations including university academics, industrial mathematicians, financiers, school teachers, scientists, civil servants etc.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Why attending IMA talks can save you money

The IMA London branch's third meeting of the academic year was held on Tuesday 26th May at Imperial College, London. The speaker was John Birkenhead from HJC Actuarial Consulting Ltd. John gave a very entertaining and informative talk entitled 'Why is my car insurance so expensive?' which answered questions like: "How can the premium be so high when I’ve never had an accident?", "Why has my premium gone up when I have one more year's no claims discount?", and "Why won’t my current insurer price-match the cheapest quote I can obtain?"? John explained why it's not always as cut and dried as we might think and what the actuary's role is in determining the premium quoted.

As someone who always tends to leave purchasing car insurance to the last minute and thus never quite has enough time to shop around I found this was a very useful and potentially money-saving talk!

John showed some of the maths and statistics behind car insurance premiums explaining that the total insurance premiums offered by a company have to cover the sum of all claims, total expenses and total profit. As each of these has many variables, involves forecasting and there are constraints such as the customer wanting an individual premium and the insurer wanting their quote to be competitive, this leads to the formation of a very large multivariate probability model which needs to be solved.

John demonstrated how quotes are dependent on the date a policy starts (they are likely to be more if the start date is some weeks in the future), your occupation (we saw that premiums are much higher if you are a TV presenter) and how factors such as convictions and adding an extra driver can actually reduce your premium in some cases.

Having heard the talk my conclusion is that the cheapest car insurance quotes go to accountants aged 40-50 with no children or pets and who add a partner of similar age as another named driver. It can also be beneficial to have a minor conviction for speeding!

Whilst I can't do anything now about my occupation or children, I can at least shop around more using brokers, comparison web sites and by going direct to companies that do not use these methods. I just hope that this year I leave myself enough time to do this!


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