Dec 25, 2008

Price of Greed and Fear

Despite of all our knowledge, training and experience we sometimes decide to follow our heart instead of our head.
What's wrong with that?

Nothing, as long as your decisions are not based on greed and fear

Illustration: We all know.....

I. How to advice on getting a better reward/risk ratio.
Modern Portfolio management (MPT) helps us.

Risk/return trade-off between bonds and stocks1980-2004 (AAII)
Bonds: 60% 5-year Treasury Notes+40% LT Treasury Bonds
Stocks:(S&P 500)


II. The performance/time model of stocks

Correct Outlook

III. Asset allocation is key behind portfolio returns
So it's not about Market Timing!

Moreover Market Timing is a dangerous game as research firm DALBAR showed.

Although the S&P 500® 1988-2007 Index had an annualized return of 12%, the average equity fund investor (in equity mutual funds) only generated a 5% return and market timers, who tried to outsmart the market by timing their inflows and outflows, generated an annualized loss of 1%.

Market Strong ... Investors Wrong

Chart: Market Strong ... Investors Wrong
*Measures returns of investors in equity mutual funds. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, DALBAR

Greed and Fear
When the asset strategy has been chosen and implemented, it comes down to strong nerves, to hold this strategy.

But nothing human is strange to us. Who can resist the pressure of shareholders, advisors or analysts to question the current strategy after 2 or 3 years of extremely high (or low) stock returns?

In straightening out and defending your policy, stakeholders and advisors will often argue that you're a rearview mirror actuary or board member. They'll stress that the actual situation is not comparable with any situation in the past.

However, always keep in mind the words of Sir John Templeton (1912-2008) :
The four most expensive words in the English language are
'This time it's different'

So how successful are you, in cashing in on your emotions an withstanding pressure?

Still, if you nevertheless give in and are going to change your bond/stock ratio based on fear, greed or hype, all bets are off.


As is clear form the example above, when your strategy is vulnerable to heart cries, you'll end up in the famous Pork Cycle , which - in this case - leads to a return level beneath that of risk free assets. The price of Greed and Fear!

When you've set your assets according your chosen asset strategy, only change this strategy when the underlying long term asset-modeling parameters substantially change. In every other case, don't decide on basis of 'heart over head'.

Define and allocate equity (as security) for an 'up front' defined period of time in wich you're willing to except lower or even a defined maximum negative performance. Agree this strategy up front with the supervisory board and national Supervisors.

Sources: MyMoneyBlog , Schwab, DALBAR

Dec 17, 2008

Credit Crisis Predicted

Lyndon LaRouche, economist, long-range forecaster, risk manager 'avant la lettre' and one of the initiators behind the SDI-project (Strategic Defense Initiative) in the 80s.

With firm quotes like "there has been no economic growth on this planet, since the end of the 1960s. None, if you measure the right magnitudes", he takes stand in the sometimes overoptimistic and misleading world we've created.

Back in 1995, in Germany, he stated "We are at the end of an epoch".

He warned that a global financial bankruptcy and collapse would be under way and introduced in an econometric form his 'famous' "Typical Collapse Function" or "Triple Curve"to illustrate that power statement.

In his daring view, he describes the interplay of the three curves (non mathematical directionalities) that characterize the collapse process:
  1. Physical-economic input/output (bottom curve)
    The productivity and functioning of the physical economy, upon which all human existence depends;
  2. Monetary aggregates (middle curve)
    The increase in monetary aggregates (approximately represented by money supply measures; injections)
  3. Financial aggregates (upper curve)
    Growth—which can become hyperbolic growth—in financial aggregates of all kinds: run-up of debts and other obligations, speculation in currencies, stock markets, futures (derivatives), etc.

As in the case of a "typical collapse function," the interaction of the upper two curves sucks the underlying physical economy dry.

But at a certain critical point (around 2000 in the USA), no matter how much money is injected in the economy, the financial bubbles cannot be kept aloft! The rate of rate of growth of monetary aggregates becomes higher than the rate of rate of growth for financial aggregates. In graphical terms, this is the "inevitable crossover" point of the middle, monetary curve, breaking up through the top financial curve.

Although this looks like intuitive econometric science, LaRouche illustrates this with some striking examples.

In the year 2000 LaRouche stated that compared with a worldwide GDP of about $41 trillion, the total amount of financial aggregate in short-term obligations was over $400 trillion. In other words, at least 10 times the amount of the total annual product of the world as a whole at that time. "

In 2008 he publishes in 'The Time Has Come for a New System':
  • We are a credit system, not a monetary system.
  • Outstanding obligations: $1.4 quadrillion, derivatives, short-term obligations of speculative nature
  • This mess is coming down.
  • System will be put into bankruptcy, by governments

And than to realize that there are still leading prominent professionals that like to make us believe that it's just some limited subprime issue. Regretful, it's the other way around. Subprime will just turn out to be the proverbial little stroke that'll fell the great oak.

Read more about LaRouche Writings

Let's hope that LaRouche is a pessimistic man....

Estimation of World Credit Loss

Have a guess. How much would you estimate the World Credit loss?

Answer: '$ 2.8 trillion' and still growing...

According to Bloomberg the actual losses and writedowns surpassed $1 trillion today,

More details at the Credit Crisis Timeline.

Who cares....
The cost of the US war in Iraq are estimated at Three Trillion Dollar (

Do(n't) worry, be hapy...

IPE: Ballendux goes it alone

According to IPE, Frans Ballendux, former business leader of Mercer Investment Consulting in the Netherlands, is starting his own investment consultancy business.

Frans joined Mercer in July 1997.

We wish Frans lots of success!

Dec 11, 2008

European Mortality

Go to HomeThe Groupe Consultatif Actuariel Europeen published end 2005 a study, which for the first time compares how companies in different European countries measure life expectancy for their pension schemes. It reveals vast differences in mortality assumptions and indicates that practice across the EU varies widely when assessing company pension liabilities.

As you may see from some examples to the left, a wide area of classic mortality formulae in the different European countries passes by.

It's clear that that mortality assumptions in company pension schemes vary from
country to country, due to variations in underlying population mortality as well as in
variations of the profile of typical membership of a company pension scheme. However, the
variations in mortality assumptions are much greater than would be justified by these
factors alone.

Some of the variation is due to the fact that some countries incorporate an allowance
for expected future improvements in mortality, while others use tables that relate to mortality observed over a period in the past, without allowing for the fact that life expectancy continues to increase.

The total actuarial deficit with regard to (future) longevity in company pension schemes is substantial.

As a 'Survey of Actuarial Education in Europe' showed, not only mortality rates differ, but also the the education of different European actuarial professionals.

In short, work enough for actuaries.

More information:

Dec 2, 2008

Netherlands Best EU Healthcare system 2008

The Netherlands are the overall winner in the Euro Health Consumer Index 2008, launched today in Brussels at a press conference hosted by the Health Consumer Powerhouse.

The Euro Health Consumer Index is the annual ranking of national European healthcare systems across six key areas: Patient rights and information, e-Health, Waiting time for treatment, Outcomes, Range and reach of services provided and Pharmaceuticals.


Client Lifetime Value (CLV)

In a Harvard Business Review called "Why satisfied customers defect", Jones & Sasser explain that even a 80% 'satisfied clients score', is no guarantee for sustainable success.

Common management misconceptions are:
  1. A client satisfaction level below complete or total satisfaction is adequate.
  2. It's not profitable to invest in changing customers from 'satisfied' to 'completely satisfied'.

Their conclusion is that, in most cases, 'complete customer satisfaction' is key in order to secure customer loyalty and generate sustainable financial performance.

Loyalty & Satisfaction
Despite of what sometimes intuitively is assumed, the relationship between loyalty and satisfaction is in most cases not linear, but depends on the competition level of a specific market segment.

In a Dutch presentation, called "CRM Myths", direct marketing professor Janny Hoekstra confirms this relationship and shows that even 'satisfied clients' are in the so called 'indifference zone'.

The 'art of client management' is obviously to create 'Apostles' and to avoid creating 'Terrorists'.

So stimulate, instead of discourage, your clients to give you feedback and to complain, because this is the only way to create new apostles.

A relatively new and, according to Harvard (The One Number You Need to Grow), probably better method to measure client loyalty is the 'Net Promoter Score' (NPS). Simply score your clients on a 0-10 points scale on the question: "Would you recommend company X ?'

Now simply calculate the NPS score (%) as:
NPS = Promoters% (rating 9&10) - Detractors% (rating 6 or less)

NPS scores of 75% or more prove world class loyalty.

Loyalty effect
Another, intuitively driven, perception is that the more customers are loyal, the more they generate profit.

In general this seems true, however as Hoekstra shows: not every 'more loyal' client is also per definition 'more profitable'.

Just like Reinartz (Insead) stated in his article : 'Not all custumors are equal'.

Reinartz defines different client groups called: Butterflies, Strangers, True Friends and Barnacles.

Each group urges a different approach in a Customer Client Strategy.

Investing in 'True friends' appears essential and eventually pays out.

Customer Lifetime Value
Actuaries that combine marketing an actuarial sciences could help by defining and calculating what is called: The Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

The CLV of a specific client(group) could be defined as the discounted value of the yearly margin (m = profits - costs), with discounting rate (i) and the (client) retention rate (r).

CLV:Rule of thumb
In the strongly simplified case with constant margin, the CLV - as a rule of thumb - could be defined as the margin (m) multiplied with the so called margin multiple = r/(1+i-r).

Example: Discount rate = i =12%, Retention rate = r = 90%, results in a CLV of approximately 4 times the yearly margin.

As is clear from the formula and table above, the choice and impact of the discount rate is only significant in combination with a high (>90%) retention rate.

Modeling and creating Client Value is not only in the interest of the shareholder, but moreover a case of creating creating added value for clients, in particular 'best satisfied clients'.

More info at: Modeling CLV(insurance), Customer Metrics