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Book Review: Navigating the path to industry

September 11, 2014
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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 is now frequently hiring people, including former academics, after successfully making the transition more than a decade ago. In fact it is more relevant than I expected. There are three main sections: Prepare yourself to apply for jobs Apply for jobs Final thoughts The Apply for jobs section is full…

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There’s always a mark for tax

September 7, 2014
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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 on mark (out of 20 or so) for mentioning tax as an issue you should take into account in whatever hypothetical situation you were considering –…

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Flu vaccination? Does it work?

August 25, 2014
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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 come later than normal, and many people have the famous H1N1 swine flu from the 2009 epidemic. In any office I’ve ever worked in (perhaps…

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Ebola – some current facts and sources

August 17, 2014
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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
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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
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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
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#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
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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
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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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Big data and actuaries – are we part of the solution?

May 11, 2014
Investigating Big Data

The Actuaries Institute had a financial services forum last week, which I managed to get to some of. My first report is of the Big data plenary session which closed the conference. I’ll start with some background reading: Cheerleaders for big data have made four exciting claims, each one reflected in the success of Google Flu Trends: that data analysis produces uncannily accurate results; that every single data point can be captured, making old statistical sampling…

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Women’s only carriages: balancing harassment and crowds

April 20, 2014
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The Eye family is on holiday in Japan at the moment. Our family of four (three male, one female) accidentally jumped into a women’s only carriage on the Osaka metro the other day. It took us one stop to run the gamut of emotions from surprised, to embarrassed, to indignation (that such a carriage was necessary, or at such special treatment for women, take your pick) and we got out and switched carriages at the next…

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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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