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Cardboard management

November 11, 2014
Cardboard management

When someone in my team wants my help with something, I often find myself playing the role of cardboard manager. Someone I worked with 15 years ago coined the term and I’ve used it ever since. I find myself asking them to explain the issue to me, and what they need me to help resolve. A startling proportion of the time, before they have finished explaining, and often before I have said another word, they stop, tell me the answer, and go away. It is surprising how often just the act of explaining the problem out loud (as opposed to thinking about it with a spreadsheet in front of you) will help you understand the answer. In fact, next time they need help, all they need to do is to imagine that there is a cardboard cutout of me standing next to them, and explain the problem to that cardboard cutout. Fortunately, perhaps, for…

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Ebola update

October 26, 2014
Ebola reproduction and mortality

Since I blogged about Ebola a couple of months ago it’s become very mainstream news (so much so that the primary school kids are talking about it now). So here are a couple of great diagrams that caught my eye from this Economist graphical summary of various ways of thinking about Ebola. Two important ways of thinking about any infectious, deadly disease are: how easily it spreads – in epidemiology, that is called the basic reproduction number how deadly it is – the mortality rate The Economist has built some diagrams showing how these two factors interact for various famous diseases, assuming…

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Life Insurance Appointed Actuaries – how should the role change?

October 25, 2014
Financial Risk Management - avoid the icebergs

Regular readers of this blog might remember a previous post of mine wondering about the role of the Appointed Actuary (AA) in life insurance. Since that post, the Actuaries Institute has formed a taskforce, of which I am a member. We had an insights session this week, in which we outlined our preliminary recommendations for change. Members can watch the video of the discussion here. I’m summarising the major recommendations here, for readers to comment. The commentary is my own, and is not necessarily the view of all members of the taskforce. A positive statement of the role of the Appointed Actuary The…

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Book Review: The Power of Noticing

October 5, 2014
Book Review: The Power of Noticing

Today’s book review is The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See, by Max H Bazerman, Harvard Business School Professor. Bazerman is a scholar of decision making, and is Co-Director of the Harvard Kennedy’s School Centre for Public leadership. His thesis is that fundamentally that if you become better at noticing the unexpected, the surprising, the path not travelled, that you will become a better leader. He uses a series of anecdotes to help you…

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Book Review: The Wife Drought

September 27, 2014
Book Review: The Wife Drought

Today’s review is of The Wife Drought, by Annabel Crabb, Australian political writer and commentator. When I heard about this book, I knew I had to have it. I’ve been a fan of Annabel Crabb’s writing since she wrote sketches in the SMH about the 2007 election. And I have read enough books about the intersection of feminism, motherhood and women in the workplace that I have a dedicated shelf of them at home. And this book didn’t…

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Book Review: Navigating the path to industry

September 11, 2014

Today’s review is of a short e-book: Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry, by M T Nelson. This book may seem only tangentially relevant for readers of this blog. It is written to help academics thinking of moving into industry; a guide for those who are used to navigating the thorny paths of tenure and grant applications, but are trying to move into corporate life.…

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There’s always a mark for tax

September 7, 2014
Checklist 2.001

When I did the actuarial exams, the top tip from my study mentors was: There is always a mark for tax. And it was true. So in this coming exam season, my advice to all the students I know (plus any reading this blog) is the same. In almost every question on my final set of exams (in my day, four six-hour papers, one each on life insurance, superannuation, investments and general insurance), you would get…

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Flu vaccination? Does it work?

August 25, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 6.01.54 pm

At this time of year, towards the end of winter, there always seem to be more people around who are sick. There are a lot of people struggling on with the “flu” and a few people who actually have the flu, who depending on politeness, often tell those people with the “flu” that they have no idea what flu actually is if they are anywhere other than in bed. Apparently this year, the flu has…

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Ebola – some current facts and sources

August 17, 2014
Ebola disease

Get a bunch of actuaries together (particularly life insurance actuaries) and sooner or later we will start talking about pandemics. Fortunately, our experiences are almost entirely theoretical. We’ve lived through AIDS (for the life insurance actuary, a very slow-moving pandemic, where the challenge was more about underwriting than claims and capital) and SARS (which, from Australia, was more economic than insurance related) and the 2009 Swine Flu, which was (from an insurance industry perspective) almost entirely…

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How can a team of actuaries help the community? Any ideas?

August 10, 2014

My employer, NAB, gives us two volunteer days of leave a year - days in which we can volunteer in the community. One day is supposed to be used by teams together; to find something that is both team building and useful to the community. The other day can be used this way, but can also be used to do something individual. Last year, my team went to a school for disabled children, and painted some…

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Financial System Inquiry – the Interim report

July 20, 2014

The Financial System Inquiry, headed by David Murray (former Chairman of the Future Fund and CEO of Commonwealth Bank) has released its Interim Report  (all 460 pages of it). For those who haven’t been following this, this inquiry (which is already known as the Murray inquiry) is the natural successor to the Wallis (1997) and Campbell (1981) inquiries, which recommended big changes to the Australian Financial system of regulation at the time (APRA and ASIC were one result…

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Book Review: #Girlboss

July 13, 2014

#GIRLBOSS, by Sophia Amoruso, is part memoir, part business advice, part self-help book, written by the founder of Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer which is,  after seven years of life, making $100m in annual sales – all online, with bricks and mortar stores coming soon. It is a light breezy read of life lessons from someone who dropped out, found her passion and worked harder than she could possibly have imagined to make the successful business she…

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About me

My name is Jennifer Lang, and I am an actuary working in financial services in Sydney. This site consists of my own personal views, and does not necessarily reflect the views of my employers - past, present or future.

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