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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 understand ways in which you could think more widely before making decisions; to notice more that might be relevant. Ask for the right information The most insightful part for me, was at the very beginning. Bazerman tells the (disguised) story of the Challenger space shuttle failure, with the broadly the same information about the likelihood of failure that was given to the Challenger team – namely that seven out of the 24 last launches had an…

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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 disappoint. I read it in a sitting, right in the middle of a busy working week. Crabb’s writing style is very engaging, which means I tend…

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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. It is a short e-book, an easy and chatty read, with references at the end for those who want more detail, written by someone who…

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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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Book Review: The Trusted Advisor

June 28, 2014
Much easier for a real person to be a trusted advisor than a robot

The Trusted Advisor, by Maister, Green and Galford Last week I ran a workshop as part of the Young Actuaries Program at the Actuaries Institute on building relationships for both external and internal clients. In preparing for it, and talking to colleagues (especially Darren Robinson, who reminded me I had lent him the book years ago), I re-read the best book on this topic, from the professional services guru, David Maister (and two coauthors, Charles Green and Robert Galford). I liberally borrowed from…

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The Role of the Appointed Actuary

June 11, 2014

Concerns about the appointed actuary role In a recent Insight publication (pdf), APRA made a few points about the role of Appointed Actuaries, particularly where it involves Pricing, which seem to express some concern as to whether appointed actuaries have been effective: A tender for group insurance involves input from a number of professional parties, including product managers, underwriters and reinsurers, to formulate a competitive tender. APRA’s view is that Appointed Actuaries are central gatekeepers in the…

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Book Review: Asia’s Cauldron, by Robert Kaplan

June 9, 2014

Today’s book review is Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, by Robert Kaplan. Robert Kaplan is an American journalist and foreign policy adviser. Although this book is about Asia, he writes this book not so much an Asian expert (although he clearly is), as an American foreign policy expert, and so this book is as much about the implications of what is happening in Asia on US Foreign Policy…

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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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