Showing posts with label advice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label advice. Show all posts

Sep 26, 2013

Actuarial Cookery in the Boardroom

Suppose your friend gave you the recipe for a delicious 'Paleo Tomato Soup'.

Does that recipe also guarantees you a delicious meal ?

Undoubtedly you answered this question with a clear "no".


As we all know, it is the 'touch of the chef' that determines the quality and final taste of the meal. The recipe is the score and the chef the performer of the culinary piece of music, that will end up on your plate.

Although the above example probably sounds logical to us, the actuarial cooking practice appears different. Let's take a look at the next example.

An Excellent ALM Advice
What about a 'plate of five' asset mix advice that's on the board's breakfast table, as the ultimate outcome of your excellent ALM analysis...

Does this ' computer recipe' actually guarantees a sound decision about an adequate investment policy?

Actually, the answer to this question can hardly be other than 'NO'.

Your advice is a static advice in a dynamic world and - on top of - the final question remains whether the asset manager is able to 'spice up' your recipe.

The actuary as Risk-Director
Key question is whether we as a profession - keeping ourselves inadvertent in the role of  'technical experts' - merely feel responsible for delivering the recipe for a cold asset mix salad on basis of 'expected values' ​​and variances.

Or ... that we actuaries are willing to act as 'risk-director' in the interactive process of creating a dynamic investment policy that's based on a nonlinear constructed healthy and varied based asset mix over time. Albeit..., without taking the driver's seat in the advice process, but with the obligation to report the eventual existence of any GMCs ('Genetically-Modified Cickens') in the asset-mix.

Economic Risk Management or ALM?
In the thorough process of adopting a dynamic investment policy, financial boards more and more take decisions based on the study of different future economic scenarios.

This development challenges actuaries to invest more in the development of "Economic Risk Management" (ECRM) models instead of traditional ALM modeling. In ECRM 'asset class data' (as in ALM) and economic data (GDP, inflation, consumer confidence, etc) are mixed in an integral set of data, that's analysed and - with future expectations, 'stress-test conditions' or of 'believes' -  (nonlinear) translated and optimized in a dynamic asset mix.

This economic risk approach requires new nonlinear economic-asset models that urge for a close cooperation between economists and actuaries, resulting in an serious interactive board discussion (board members and economical & actuarial experts) of the ECRM models.

This approach is not limited to the well-known three or four so-called 'muddle through scenarios', but covers the outcome and impact of a large number of more precise formulated possible economic scenarios on the asset mix and the investment strategy.

Scenarios that help determine the overall risk appetite and result in a major impact on the composition of the strategic asset mix.

New Q&A's
In other words, new scenarios that give answers to questions like:

As with the current ALM approach, the focus should not be only on the quantitative outcome of the ECRM model, but more on the discussion and wider perception of how economic risk affects the optimal asset mix and the dynamic asset policy, allowing boards to take more informed and underpinned investment policy decisions.

In this approach, ALM and ECRM are helpful but not dominating decision support tools in the creation of the final investment policy and not an unintended consultant's dictate that's implicitly adopted ("take note") by the board and then subsequently implemented.

How to Check the Quality of your ALM or ECRM Advice?
Fortunately, it is easy to check whether your ECRM or ALM advice is actually a good quality decision document or just a bite-sized chunk.

If your advice offered only 'one option' or was adopted without a serious debate or any amendments, then -  to put it euphemistically - your advice is 'ready for improvement'.

Actuaries: Backroom to the Boardroom
Finally, it all comes down together whether we as actuaries want to profile ourselves as 'recipe writers' or pick up the 'risk-director role' as an 'actuarial chef'. If you choose the latter, please stand up and help to bring out actuaries from the Backroom to the Boardroom. Success!

Aug 10, 2010

Humor: Actuarial Advice Route

Actuaries have a great job. Giving actuarial advice has become 'boardroom art'.

Although actuarial device differs as much as actuaries differ, the route of actuarial advice is - not surprisingly - mostly the same....

Keep enjoying your job as an actuary!

Jun 20, 2009

Influenced Decisions

As sincere actuaries, we all think our decisions are made in a pure professional and rational manner. Upon our turn, the board we advise, takes decisions based on our 'objective' unbiased advices.

Too bad, nothing is less is true! Decisions are strongly influenced by the way we present our proposals.

Influenced Decisions
In a splendid TED Video Presentation called 'Are we in control of our own decisions' (half an our fun and learning!) , Dan Ariely, an Israeli professor of behavioral economics and head of the eRationality research group at the MIT Media Lab, shows the astonishing effect of how decisions can be fundamentally changed by adding dummies in proposals:

First experiment
Ariely tested the next ad on the website of the on a group of 100 MIT students:

As expected, most students wanted the combo deal (84%). Students can read, so nobody wanted the middle option.

But now, if you have an option nobody wants, you can take it off. Right? So Ariely tested another version of this ad on another group of students, eliminating the middle option. This is what happened:

Now the most popular option (84%) suddenly became the least popular (32%). And the least popular (16%) became the most popular (68%) option.

What happened was that the 'useless' option in the middle, was useless in the sense that nobody wanted it. But it wasn't useless in the sense that it helped people figure out what they wanted. In fact, relative to the option in the middle, which was get only the print for $125, the print and web for $125 looked like a fantastic deal. And as a consequence, people chose it.

The general idea here is that we actually don't know our preferences that well. And because we don't know our preferences that well we're susceptible to all of these influences from the external forces.

Second experiment
People believe that when they see somebody, they immediately know whether they like that person or not. Ariely decided to put this statement to the test.

He showed his students a picture of Tom and a picture of Jerry (real people in practice). Then he asked "Who do you want to date? Tom or Jerry?" But for half the people he added a slightly less attractive (photoshopped) version of Jerry. For the other half of the students he added a slightly less attractive (ugly) version of Tom.

Now the question was, will ugly Jerry and ugly Tom help their respective, more attractive brothers?

The answer was absolutely YES. When ugly Jerry was around, Jerry was popular. When ugly Tom was around, Tom was popular.

Conclusions: The Dummy Effect
What can we conclude from these two experiments?

When a board has to take a decision between two main proposals, their decision might be positively influenced by adding a third 'slightly less attractive version' (the dummy) of the proposal you - as an actuary - value as most favorable.

The danger that you - unaware of this dummy-effect - add slightly other proposals is substantial, as - in searching for the best decision - you'll be naturally inclined to add a few solutions nearby the optimal solution.

From now on...
Now that you've become aware of this dummy-effect, your next board proposals will be 'cleaner' than before and 'undummied'. Also you'll have a more enriched look at third party (or employee) proposals that are on your or on your boards table. From now on your board advise will not only focus on the technical or actuarial matters, but also include a professional opinion about the way a proposal is structured and presented.

Good luck in developing proposals.....

- Book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- MIT Center for future banking