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Life insurance profitability – how is it going?

February 22, 2015
Source: APRA, my own analysis

Every quarter (since June 2008), APRA summarises various financial statistics from the life insurance industry in a quarterly report. Every quarter, I read it eagerly, to see if it answers the question that I am often asked, “how will we know if the life insurance cycle has turned?”. The total industry appears to be slightly on an upswing, if you look at the annual average. But that hides the worst individual line yet – retail disability income insurance (for the whole industry) returned a loss of $394m for the quarter, and a loss of $569m for the 2014 year. The second chart shows the whole of the disability income profit margin experience (retail and group). For the 2014 year, the loss for the industry as a whole has been 18% of net premiums. Profitability for disability income in the retail market is still getting worse. And for the last six and…

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What did I read in 2014?

February 8, 2015
Sitting doing nothing all New Year's Eve

I’ve written up my annual page about what I read in 2014 here. In this post, I’m just mentioning the books that I enjoyed the most. First, The Wife Drought, by Annabel Crabb. I reviewed that one here, and you can see I really enjoyed it. It’s my pick for the year. Second, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. This one didn’t make my review list, but I highly recommend it – a combination of great writing, new ways of thinking about the world, and even travelogue. But go and read the post, you might find something you like in there.  

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Progressing Women in Leadership – what works?

December 6, 2014
We can do it

In the past two days I have read two insightful pieces of research into how to create an organisation where women can progress. Chief Executive Women commissioned a study with Bain & Co which  used the concept of net promoter score (advocates minus detractors to a specific question) to tease out what aspects of a company were most likely to lead employees to strongly agree that they are likely  to recommend their organisation as a place for women to progress to senior levels.  They surveyed 1,492 people in for profit and not for profit organisations around Australia, 55% of whom were female, and 58% of whom…

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Life insurance quarterly statistics – quick hit

November 30, 2014
APRA Stats

I’m a bit behind here, but APRA released their quarterly life insurance statistics this month. I’ve done a quick graph of the rolling 12 months profits since APRA first started releasing these statistics. Note that Group Insurance and Disability Income Insurance are different subsets of the total – the subset (that I haven’t shown) where the industry is making money is retail lump sum insurance. The graph shows that the rolling 12 months profit for…

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Cardboard management

November 11, 2014

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…

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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…

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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…

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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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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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