Reverse sensitivity testing: What does it take to break the model?

When and Where

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Room SS1086
Sidney Smith Hall
100 Saint George Street Toronto, ON M5S 3G3


Silvana Pesenti, Cass Business School, London, UK


Sensitivity analysis is an important component of model building, interpretation and validation. A model comprises a vector of random input factors, an aggregation function mapping input factors to a random output, and a (baseline) probability measure. A risk measure, such as Value-at-Risk and Expected Shortfall, maps the distribution of the output to the real line.  As is common in risk management, the value of the risk measure applied to the output is a decision variable.

Therefore, it is of interest to associate a critical increase in the risk measure to specific input factors. We propose a global and model-independent framework, termed `reverse sensitivity testing', comprising three steps: (a) an output stress is specified, corresponding to an increase in the risk measure(s); (b) a (stressed) probability measure is derived, minimising the Kullback-Leibler divergence with respect to the baseline probability, under constraints generated by the output stress; (c) changes in the distributions of input factors are evaluated.

We argue that a substantial change in the distribution of an input factor corresponds to high sensitivity to that input and introduce a novel sensitivity measure to formalise this insight. Implementation of reverse sensitivity testing in a Monte-Carlo setting can be performed on a single set of input/output scenarios, simulated under the baseline model. Thus the approach circumvents the need for additional computationally expensive evaluations of the aggregation function. We illustrate the proposed approach through numerical examples of a simple insurance portfolio and a model of a London Insurance Market portfolio used in industry.

This is joint work with Pietro Millossovich and Andreas Tsanakas


100 Saint George Street Toronto, ON M5S 3G3