Why we don't fit models in Excel

(Oct 21, 2008)

Actuaries are very heavy users of spreadsheets, especially Microsoft® Excel.  One question we are occasionally asked is why we wrote our software in C++, instead of letting people have direct access to our code as a spreadsheet. 

One answer is that there have been rather too many bugs for comfort in the basic arithmetic and mathematical functions in Excel.  Here are some examples:

  1. In Excel 2007 the answer to 850 * 77.1 is given as 100000 instead of the correct answer of 65535.
  2. We often need to do simulations, for which we need to generate uniform random numbers distributed between zero and 1.  In Excel 2003 the RAND() function returns negative numbers.
  3. Excel will sometimes crash when trying to maximise certain log-likelihood…

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Tags: spreadsheet, Excel, C++

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