The Royal Dutch Actuarial Association (Koninklijk Actuarieel Genootschap) annually offers the Johan de Witt prize for the best (scientific) actuarial thesis.
The 2022 edition has been won by fellow IA|BE member Yelle Hunninck; he developed a practitioner's guide to flood risk assessment, building forward-looking flood maps for insurance applications.
On Thursday 24 November 2022, Yelle Hunninck MSc, at the Autumn Congress of the Royal Actuarial Society, received the Johan de Witt Thesis Award 2022 from the hands of jury chairman Jos Berkemeijer AAG for his thesis "Practitioner's Guide to a Flood Risk Assessment". With this thesis, he graduated in Actuarial and financial engineering from KU Leuven (Belgium).
In his thesis, Yelle develops, using available public data, a practical alternative method by which flood risk exposure can be depicted. A method that does not rely on non-transparent broker information (black box). The reader is taken on an inspiring journey of modelling a virtual mathematical geographic landscape that quantitatively, graphically and geographically depicts the risk of flooding in a given area.
To get a picture of future flood risk, he developed an algorithm that takes climate change data into account. Since there is much uncertainty about the effects of climate change, he does not make assumptions, but works with objective data, impact analyses and simulations. Here, relatively simple physics and geography are applied and brought into the actuarial domain. Yelle thus creates a transparent and accessible white-box method for mapping flood risk exposure. He then compares the developed method with a blackbox method commonly used in current practice. Finally, he describes how the developed flood maps can be integrated into an insurer's daily processes and used in processes of risk management, pricing and underwriting.
The jury particularly appreciated his thesis for having developed, in his own and very inspiring way, an alternative methodology that can provide insight into flood risk exposure. A new area that fits well with the recent focus on climate risks. His methodology is insightful and practically applicable and thus may be useful for (re)insurers, but possibly also suitable for countries, provinces or municipalities to implement policy on (prevention).