Showing posts with label risk management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label risk management. Show all posts

May 14, 2015

Risk Management Ground Rule

Risk Management is a awkward and hard to grasp discipline. Not only in boardrooms, but also in the practice of our professional risk management discipline.

Once you think you've captured risk management, it captures you...... again and again...

By definition risk management is a paradox.

Once you fully 'control' and 'manage' a certain risk, it's no longer really a 'risk' in the sense that it can surprise you.

However..., did you check and do you manage the following risks?

Meta Risk Management Risks

  1. Risk Framework Risk
    All (regulatory) rules and principles you apply in risk management are filters that cause new risks. Therefore every kind of risk management framework is also a source of risk and should be part of your risk management framework.
    Have you identified weak spots in your risk management framework?
  2. Risk Measures Risk
    Every risk measure taken, causes a new risk.
    Have you identified what the risks of risk management measures are?
  3. Model Risk
    All models you use in risk management are dangerous and risky approximations.
    Therefore, always use at least a second 'Challenger Model' to fully understand, check, calibrate and control your risks and risk measures.
    Do you have at least one challenger risk model in place?
  4. Unknown Risk Preparedness
    In the heart of the matter 'managing risk' is not primarily  'risk management'. Preparing for unknown risks is what risk management is really about.
    Do you have a procedure in place for managing unknown risk events?

Congratulations if you have successfully passed the above Meta Risk Management Test.

Ground Rule
Yet, there's still one risk management  ground rule you could have violated.... Denying this ground rule is the same as the ground rule itself!

Never classify any event or reported risk as not relevant  


A. Example Challenger
One of the most classic examples of violating this ground rule is the disaster of the space-shuttle Challenger back in 1986. Engineer reports about the failing two rubber O-rings that caused the accident, where denied by management.

Just recently we can observe another possible example of violation.

B. Stress Test  
On 11 may 2015 the supervisory authority EIOPA launched its first 'stress test' for European pension funds (IORPs;Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision).

Now take a look at the initial response of a spokesman of the Dutch pension fund association (Source: IPE; translated):

  1. Not happy
    The Dutch pension sector is not happy with a stress test for pension funds, as issued by the European regulator EIOPA.
  2. Unnecessary
    According to the Pension Federation the test is 'not necessary' for Dutch pension funds and the test could lead to "unnecessary European rules'. The test is just a burden for the funds. A waste of their time. Besides the Pension Federation fears that the results lead to all kinds of EU rules which do not require in the Netherlands. We must be careful that there will not draw the wrong conclusions.
  3. Dutch Pension funds cannot Topple
    From a Dutch perspective, the test unnecessary, because Dutch funds cannot topple by what is regulated here in The Netherlands. 

It's clear that this kind of reactions are counterproductive and violate the ground rule of risk management.

To put it in a different way: Perhaps Dutch pension funds cannot topple, but they sure can collapse!

As experts in risk management we're all confident that we can identify, understand and manage risks. Unfortunately, nothing less is true...
We all have our blank space.......

Mar 17, 2013

AIFMD Fun of Funds

To prevent future crises, a new European law, the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD)  came into force on 22 July 2011.

The new directive has to be implemented before 22 July 2013 and will also apply to non-EU fund managers if they ares managing or marketing an AIF to investors in the EU.

It is believed that the directive will reduce the number of non-EU managers operating within the EU.

AIF's assets and risk management
Although the AIFM-Directive has many new demands (appoint independent valuer, custodian, disclosure) we'll focus here on the requirement to ensure an independent evaluation of the AIF's assets and risk management.

AIFMD Risk Management Obligations
  • Every AIFM needs to have an adequate documented risk management policy, covering all possible risks faced by the AIFs
  • Every AIFM has to set quantitative and qualitative risk limits for each AIF for all possible kind of risks 
  • An AIFM's Risk Measurement Procedure should include requirements for: backtesting, stress-testing, scenario analyses and the rules should describe remedial action plans when limits are breached. 

So far so good, peace of a cake, you would think. Unfortunately: NO!

1. In-depth market risk assessment: too complex and not adequate
An adequate in-depth market risk assessment of AIFMs AIFs actually requires a full 'fund of funds' transparency of the portfolio of the (AIF) funds.

The problem is that full 'fund of funds' transparency does not exist yet, nor can it finally be fully obtained. It's simply too complex:
  • undefined systemic risks are often beneath the analyse surface
  • (re)hedged risks could be part of a fatal unknown or unapparent self-reference hedge cycle
  • in-depth 'fund of funds' management is time consuming and presumes that risk profiles of sub-funds are available, when in practice they are often not

To illustrate the desperate, funny and useless efforts that are made to tame the 'fund of funds' issues within the AIFMD, just take a look at the next quote from the AIF Handbook draft 2013 :

Section 5-iii-1, Alias 'Fun' of Funds
"Any proposed investment by a Qualifying Investor AIF into another investment fund must be clearly disclosed.
Disclosure must focus on the implications of this policy regarding 
increased costs to unitholders (i.e. the fact that fees will arise at two or, in the cases where the underlying fund it itself a fund of funds, three levels – the Qualifying Investor AIF, the underlying fund of funds and the underlying funds in which the underlying fund of funds invests) and the resultant lack of transparency in investments."

I hope you're still with me after all this fund of funds of funds of funds fun..... ;-)

Thus, in-depth market risk assessments in a non transparent market are inadequate and may potentially result in ill-founded or even erroneous conclusions (e.g.' false safety').

Market Risk Assessment
The adequacy of an AIFMD's Market Risk Assessment could be roughly defined as:

MRA-Adequacy = ADTQ x RPQ x RMQ

With: ADTQ= Asset Data Transparency Quality, RPQ= Risk Policy Quality and RMQ = Risk Model Quality.

Just let your colleague rate your ADTQ, RPQ and RMQ on a ten point scale. If the outcome MRA-Adequacy is lower than 800, consider your test as inadequate.

As transparency also includes full sub-cycle  'fund of funds' transparency, often ADTQ will not score high enough for an adequate test outcome.

Suppose an AIF consists of 30% 'fund of funds' with minor risk information regarding the sub-funds.All other scores of the AIF score well (10). In this case the test adequacy score is 700 (= 7 x 10 x 10) . Conclusion: the quality of your risk assessment is insufficient for drawing robust conclusions.

2. Alternative: Strategic Market Risk Assessment
Instead of - come what may - trying to get to the endless bottom of a 'fund to fund' construction, a more strategic risk assessment approach -  as an alternative -could work out much more effective. A strategic market risk assessment that assesses the nature, risk and policy of a AIF and its investments and that implicitly takes into account non-linear risks, the presence of systemic risk, a large number of weighted and not-weighted economic scenarios, stress tests and fat tail risks.

The Secret of the Chef
Many (hedge) funds have only a limited transparent investment policy or an investment policy that  - for whatever reason -is regarded as 'The Secret of the Chef'.

In these kind of funds 'full disclosure' will end in a lot of degrees of freedom in 'risk policy' and corresponding mandates.

It's important to realize that the more degrees of  freedom in 'risk policy' a manager of a fund has, the more risk will emerge in the above formulated alternative assessment.

New alternative market risk models?
Key question is: are there new models that can assess investment strategies and portfolios in a systemic risk environment and on basis of non-linear modeling.

The answer to this question is : Yes, very soon!

Symetrics, a brand new company in the Netherlands is developing an investment decision support and assessment system called SyMath, that is based on nonlinear modeling, grasps systemic risk and includes future crises. SyMath will be on the market mid 2013.

Until then will have to assess AIFMs with pen and pencil... ;-)

Links, Used Sources

Dec 12, 2012

What's your Risk Intelligence Quotient?

One of the main problems in risk management is that we (oblivious) overestimate our risk knowledge.

If for example financial institutional boards have to define a risk-return strategy, they may overestimate the probability that the historic return level of a certain asset class will also be the expected future return level.
Or they might simply overestimate the quality of their investment advisor.... ;-)

To define an optimal asset mix on basis of a risk-return strategy, it takes more than just estimating future returns and/or risks of certain asset classes.

To make these kind of high-impact decisions it's important to train board members on knowledge of economic schools and theories and also on the relationship between economic developments and financial parameters like unemployment, inflation, GDP-growth, specific asset class return and risk parameters, linear and non-linear effects, and so on......

But more than that, it's important that board members - as they have learned all this - become aware of the fact that the more they know about risk and uncertainty, the more they'll realize that the outcome or certainty of a future development is intrinsically highly unsure. This last recognition will have significant consequences for the final choice with regard to the optimal asset mix given the risk appetite.

Risk Intelligence Test 
Eventually it all comes down to
Kowing how much you know
as Dylan Evans, author of the book "Risk Intelligence"states in the Dylan Ratigan Show

According to Dylan : 'Risk intelligence is not about solving probability puzzles; it is about how to make decisions when your knowledge is uncertain.'

Dylan Evans developed a short (5 min) Risk Intelligence Test.
See, if you can pas the test as an actuary or risk manager...
You can take the test here.
The test is also available in Dutch.

- Homepage Dylan Evans
- Dylan Evans on Twitter
- Dutch Risk Intelligence Test
- Dylan Evans: Emotional Equations (Pdf)

Feb 12, 2012

What became of my Pension Plan...

It's sad but a bitter reality, pension cuts are on their way....

We have to admit.., our once so ambitious pension plans got shattered.

What's left is the cartoonized view of an average pension member:

Dutch Perspective
For Dutch pension members and pensioners the situation has become (extra) paradoxical.

Top consulting firms like Mercer and Towers Watson (regularly) rank The Netherlands as one of the best pension countries ever.....

These announcements only bring little consolation......

On top of the Dutch State Treasury Agency illustrates the relative 'strong outlook' of the Netherlands in European perspective.

All this looks quite hopeful, but does it generate the necessary trust?

New Risk Management Definition
What comes to mind is: was our our pension plan based on hope or calculations we can trust? Is our (Dutch) country recovering plan based on underpinned facts and actions or is it 'pink cloud thinking'.....?

Hmmmmm...., all these reflections lead to a kind of new mathematical definition of Risk Management:

Risk Management = Trust - Hope

In other words, Risk Management is managing the difference between Hope and Trust......

Faith alone seems not enough.....

What's next?

Key question is in all this pension fuzz is of course: How could this happen?

More technical details in my next blog on Actuary-Info :

Pension Cuts, Why? 

Mean time, keep breathing, you're living a longer live......

Sources/Related Links:
- Dutch State Treasury Agency (2012)
- Global Pension Assets Study 2012

- The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (2011)
- List of Top Consulting Firms 
- Is Faith Enough? 

Apr 25, 2011

Risk Quotes

I'll not even try to give a definition of 'Risk Management'.
More than the word Risk, Risk Management is full of traps and paradoxes.

Just to mention some.....

Risk Management is...
  • not primarily about risk that can be calculated with a 99,x% confidence level
  • dealing with Risks you know will come, but can't be calculated
  • more about correlation in time than mean estimates and standard deviation
  • more about prevention, foreseeing and managing risk than capitalisation of risk
  • more about taking risks to benefit, than trying to exclude risks
  • fighting risk instead of excluding risk
  • making Plans B and C, in case your confidence level fails

Avoiding Risk
One of the trickiest parts of Risk Management is that we often  are trying to avoid Risk at any price.

By doing so, we introduce a new risk: It gets harder to achieve shareholder and client value.

Often returns will decline because of over-capitalisation and a risk-return unbalance.

Finally we have to compete in new risk areas we're not experienced in. 

It's all well expressed in a cartoon on cartoonstock:

'We've considered every potential risk, except the risks of avoiding all risks.'

Personally I prefer the challenging Risk Management quote of Jos Berkemeijer, that states:

 "Risk Management: the art of foreseeing hindsight."

Better than trying to define Risk or Risk Management, it is to study and get inspired by Risk Quotes.

Therefore I conclude this Blog with a link to the Blog 'Risk Quotes'

You can place a random quote like this one:

Random Risk Quote

on your website or Blog by copying the next javascript code.

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

Install Instructions
  1. Copy above JavaScript code (select;CTRL-C).
  2. Paste (CTRL-V) the code on your webpage or Blog
    Blogger: Go to Design Tab, Click on Add a gadget;
    Click on 'HTML/Javascript' Gadget
    Paste the above code in the gadget and Save. 

Related Links
- Risk Quotes
- Riskviews: quotes
- Best Risk Management Quotes
- Death of Risk Management

Apr 11, 2011

Fun: Actuarial Dasboard Crash

Last week I gave a Risk Management training about pension funds. After illustrating several times the importance of adequate risk management dashboards, one of the attendees suddenly stated:

'No matter how impressive your dashboard, you should keep your eyes on the road!'........

Right he was! A driver  who's constantly focused on his dashboard will sooner or later end up in the bush and finally crash.

We, actuaries and risk managers all trust on our dashboards, but at the same time we should keep our eyes open to anticipate on coming events in a changing marketplace.

Sometimes it's even better to just leave the road, as the next video shows...

Police Risk management

David | Myspace Video

Anyhow, keep your eyes open, to prevent an Actuarial Dashboard Crash.....

Related Links:
- Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce: Don’t Let Dashboards Drive You Crazy

Mar 27, 2011

Zero Problems Risk Management

More and more we actuaries and risk managers become aware that our risk models can't just be based on numbers and statistics exclusively.

Some examples:

Systemic risk
The recent financial crisis made it clear that a 'mono risk approach' on a sole risk-object (mortgage, fund-investment) is insufficient.

Investments and loans are embedded in a worldwide sea of connected financial instruments and reinvestments. Systemic risk has to be included in our models.

Main challenge here is that systematic risk essentially depends on macroeconomic and (mostly) irrational factors. Further, systemic risk is related to the structure and dynamics of the market. More than numbers.....

Supervisory Herding Risk
In their effort to control and support financial institutions like banks, pension funds and insurance companies, country supervisors, regulators and 'accounting standards boards', defined a meticulously set of guidance rules (Basel I/II/II, Solvency I/II, Qis-I-V, IFRS, FAS, AIFMD, FTK, FIRM, etc.,etc.)

Financial institutions not only confirmed and adopted to those new rules, but - in their rush and driven by cost and time pressure - also implicitly (and often unintentionally) declared those same imposed rules and rationales as their own business 'Risk Appetite'. This way, most financial Institutions became so called: 'Supervisory Compliant'.

Instead of  expliciting their specific company-targets and successively developing their own correspondent risk appetite and risk framework, they incorporated the supervisor's risk philosophy. 

Without a sound own (board) risk vision that would undoubtedly have included some extra safety on 'company specific risk issues', financial institutions became - like a herd - all in the same way extremely vulnerable to (less defined) external risks.


Overregulation increases Herding Risk

Financial institutions all measure and respond to regulated risks in the same way. Supervisory Herding Risk is born.....

Too Much Focus Risk
As a consequence of pre-subscribed risk categories and ruling by law or (accounting) standards, there's the risk of 'too much focus' on specific risks while forgetting, denying or neglecting other important risks. Remember, the devil is in the (correlating) details....

Here's a useful, but not exhaustive, checklist to keep track on your risk models...

Average Premium Risk Diversification Risk Matching Risk
Commodity risk Employer Continuity Risk Operational risk
Compliance Risk Environmental Risk Outsourcing Risk
Compliance Risk Equity Risk Oversight Risk
Concentration Risk Herding Risk Price Inflation Risk
Counterparty Risk Interest rate risk Property Derivatives Risk
Coverage Ratio Risk IT Risk Reinsurance Risk
Credit Risk Legal risk Reinvestment risk
Culture Risk Legislative Risk Reputation risk
Currency Risk Liability Risk Sex Calculation risk
Default Risk Liquidity risk Strategic risk
Deflation risk Longevity Risk System Risk
Disaster Risk Market Risk Systemic Risk
Discount Risk Matching Risk Wage Cost Inflation Risk

ALM Simplifying Risk
Univariate models are killing and even multivariate models have proven to be too vulnerable and too limited in the recent crisis. It's not just about correlation and covariance matrices. What we need is an self-explaining model. A model  that predicts or generates expected values in an economic context, depending on exogenous economic variables like inflation rate, GDP-Level, etc. and that is based on the same structured historical economic data-set.

We need 'Asset Liability Modeling New Style' and not only Stress Testing or
advanced and excellent Crash Modelling as well explained by EMB.

Geopolitical Risk
With Europe and Japan as recent examples, it's clear that risks come from everywhere around the world.

The consequence of earthquakes (Japan, Australia), a possible  country default (Ireland, Greece, Portugal, ..), political instability (Libya, Ivory Coast, ..), war threat (Vietnam,Iraq, ..), financial easing (US, Europe,...), on our economic system, prices and financial institutions seems substantial and - moreover- predictable.

More than just trying to catch and capitalize these kind of risks in our risk models, we need to develop (financial) mechanisms and products that can cope as best as possible with these kind of risks.

The Riskmap 2011, Managing Risk | Maximising Opportunity, offers a good description of the actual risks that influence our lives and risk models.

A nice example is the recent (unexpected) leading role that France took in action against Libya.  'Riskmap 2011' mentions the 'Arabic Poll 2010' that clearly shows (despite the lack of sympathy for president Sarkozy) the trust and sympathy for France. France clearly outperforms the US and president Obama  unfortunately has lost the trust of the Arabic world... Take a look at the next slide summary (or the original complete pdf):  

Arab Public Opinion Poll 2010 Summary

The Arabic poll shows that the prime minister of Turkey, Erdogan, has clearly gained  the confidence and trust of the  Arabic countries. With Ergodan, Turkey - at the cross road between East and West - takes a leading role in the 'World Risk Management Process'.  Ergodan's Risk Philosophy, invented  by the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu,   is 'Zero Problems'.....

Perhaps that should be the philosophy of actuaries too...

Zero Problems

From now on 'Modeling Risk' is more than just a financial exercise.
It's building scenario's, mechanisms and products that can cope with this risky world.  Success as actuary or risk manager!

Related Links:

- Committee (behaviour) assessment tool
Control Risks:Riskmap 2011
- Arabic Poll 2010
- Supervisory Compliant
- Maplecroft Risk Maps 
- EMB: How to Model a Crash (REVO) 

Mar 16, 2011

Fukushima Risk Management

With all due respect for the Japanese risk managers, engineers and the Japanese people in general: The latest 2011 M=8.9 Earthquake in Japan made clear that the current Risk Models, as well as Risk Management itself, have tragically failed.

Shortcomings in headlines:
  • Underestimation of the probability of a M=8.9 (M>8) event
  • Risk Modeling mainly focused on 'direct' earthquake effects
  • Underestimation of cumulative correlated devastating effects that occurred as a consequence of a combination of Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Nuclear Disasters and Physical Concentration (4 reactors in a row!).

It's true, the worldwide annual frequency of a serious earthquake with a magnitude of 8 or more (M>8) seems small....

Yet - no matter how low the probability- the consequences (loss) is unacceptable if the damage in case of an event (like an earthquake M>8) is not manageable, exceeds a country's financial recuperation power, or devastates thousands of lives...

End of Time?
Lots of worrywarts think the end of time has come, as severe earthquakes are increasing.

Simple statistics show that this is not (yet ?) the case:

The expected average Magnitude value of all earthquakes with M>=7 over the period 1950-2011 (March) is Ma=7.6 with a standard deviation of SD= 0.4. The average value of the last 10 years turns out Ma=7.4 with the same SD (0.4).

Nevertheless, when we examine the graphic more closely, there seems a light (significant?) increase in large magnitude earthquakes in recent decades.....

Back to the year 0
For what it's worth, the average magnitude for M>=7 earthquakes over a longer period from 0 to 2011 (March) , turns out in line with Ma=7.6 and a SD=0.44. Or in graphics:

History Earthquakes in GoogeMaps
Finally, take a look at the history of all earthquakes with a magnitude of 7 or higher on GoogleMaps... (take look at your country!)

Earthquakes, Magnitude> 7, years 0-2011 weergeven op een grotere kaart

Let's hope and pray for the Japanese people that that the brave engineers who are fighting the current meltdown at Fukushima will succeed and survive.....

Related links
- Spreadsheet (Excel) Earthquakes 0-2011 (March), M>=7
- Crash Course Earthquake calculation by Professor Nicholas Pinter
- Effect of Seismic Risk Measures on Japanese Housing Prices
- Earthquake Software
- Download Earthquake data from USGS
- Earthquake Safety of Nuclear Power Plants
- PPT:Japan’s Nuclear Energy Program(2003-2004)
- Design criteria Japanes Nuclear Plants  
- Prediction of ground motion
- Seismic Risk Evaluation (2004)
- Earthquake Facts 
- Earthquake FAQS 
- GeoBatch: Earthquakes (history M>=7)
- GoogleMaps: Earthquakes (history M>=7)

Jun 26, 2010

Death by Solvency

Risk Management can be a strange and deathly game. Normally one would expect that the more the demand of Probability of Insolvency (POI) is decreased:
  • the more Prevention- , Risk-reduction- and Damage-control-measures will be taken
  • the less actual Risk and corresponding Loss will actually occur
  • the higher the resulting average yearly profit
  • the lower the resulting yearly profit volatility

This appears to be true in situations where Risk Management is hardly developed and POI-Demands are relatively modest (5%-2.5%).

Increasing POI-Demands
However, depending on the type of risk, beyond certain POI-Demands (smaller than roughly 2.5%) , the costs of Risk management measures, maintenance and capital requirements become higher than the average expected Loss-reduction, resulting in - on average - lower profits.
Of course, these extra risk management investments and capital requirements can financed by raising consumers prices, but - on balance - this will result a smaller market corresponding with a lower profitability level.

The question can be asked if this still is what we, management and consumers, intended to achieve.......?

Next, in our passion to reduce Risk to an even more extreme low level, we can get carried away completely...

Excessive POI-Demands
When POI-Demands get to levels of 1% or less, a remarkable psychological effect enters the Risk management arena.

Management perceives that the Risk-level is now actually so low that they cannot fail anymore.
In their ambitious goal to outperform the profit level of their competitors, management gets overconfident and reckless. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

When POI-Demands are set to levels of 0.5% or less (as they are mostly now in 2010) it becomes almost impossible to beat your competitors with an approach of 'taking more risk'. Even if one would try to manage or hedge these extra risks 'best' in the market. In the long-term, the price of this risk would equal or beat the expected loss.

In this situation some managers get desperate and instead of considering things 'right', they see only one option 'left'....

'Working Around (the) Rules"

WAR, Working Around the Rules, comprises actions like:
  • Taking (extra) risks on non-measurable or non-measured financial transactions, or or 'non-obligated-reporting risks'
  • Manipulating, disguising or mitigate risk information, or risk-control reports
  • Misuse legally allowed methods and accounting principles to create legally unintended financial effects or transactions

It's perhaps hard to admit, but as actual developments show, we've entered the final WAR phase. Some Examples: subprime, Madoff accounting, BP-deep horizon oil failure, bank multipliers, etc, etc.

In all these examples, managers (are pushed to) become over-creative by working around the rules to deliver what they've promised: more profit.

However this approach always results in
  1. More short-term profits
  2. Less long-term profits
  3. Sudden bankruptcy in the end

This development, resembles the 2010 situation in the Insurance and Banking industry where, after each financial debacle, POI-Demands where successively decreased to a 0.5% level  and have resulted in marginal profits and a highly volatile Profits or even losses. Pension Funds (NL: 2.5% POI-Demand) appear to be the next patient the operating table.....

The situation is out of control. Nothing really seems to help anymore....

Are there any solution to prevent this solvency meltdown process?
Yes, but that's for another blog as this one is getting too long...

Related links:
- Why excessive capital requirements harm consumers, insurers and...(2010)
- Presentation - Modelling of Long-Term Risk (2010)

Jun 18, 2010

Risk Symptoms Matrix

On INARM (International Network of Actuarial Risk Managers) ERM advisor Dave Ingram raises the simple question:

What must managers who are not modelers know about models?

Perhaps this question is one of the most relevant questions in Risk Management and the Actuarial profession. It's a key question that should be discussed on Board Level in every (financial) area.

Also this question is relevant in setting up and managing complex projects like Solvency II, ERM, Pension Fund Risk Management, ALM and even "In control" projects.

The answer
Now let's try to answer this intriguing question

Managers are experts in 'decision taking'. Modelers are experts in reducing and simplifying complexity to decidable parameters.

Now the Quality (Q) of a management decision (D) is defined by the equation:

[ Q(D)= Q(Manager) x Q(Modeler) ],

where Modelers are responsible for the Quality of the Input (data) of the model [Q(Input Model)] and the Quality of the modeling process itself [Q(Modeling)].

More refined, we may therefore define :

Q(D)= Q(Manager) x Q(Input Model) x Q(Modeling)

Luckily, not all Q's are independent!
Both Managers and Modelers can raise the Quality of the outcome of the Decision process by asking each other "What If" questions.

By asking WI-questions with regard to the 'Input of the Model" [Q(Input) = data, decision parameters] and examining the output, Modelers are able to raise the Quality of their (technical) Modeling by improving their technical Model [Q(Modeling)].

Moreover, decision parameters are not set in stone. So by asking WI-questions, Modelers become more aware of the Management Decision Consequences (MDCs), helping them to develop and simplify decision parameters to the most adequate, understandable and possible simplified form. Or as Albert Einstein quoted it:

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler"

On the other hand, by asking WI-questions, Managers can study the effects of various decisions they might take in different (simulated future) circumstances (as roughly described by the Manager).

This process improves the decision taking skills of a Manager and therefore improves the Quality of the Decisions taken by Managers [Q(D)] in general. At the same time, the Modeler may use the given information from the Manager to improve his Model and (future) data as well.

We may conclude that the answer to the question 'What managers, who are not modelers, need to know about models' is:

Nothing, as long as Manager and Modeler intensively communicate with each other, ask WI-questions, are not afraid to admit their weakness or doubts, challenge each other and don't manipulate each other!

Perhaps an ever more tricky question to answer is:

"What must managers who are also modelers know about models?

Possibly Dave Ingram has the answer to this question....

Aftermath What happens when communication between Managers and modelers fails, is well illustrated in the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster, where BP CEO Tony Hayward stated before congress:
- “I simply wasn’t involved in the decision-making.”
- “Clearly an engineering judgment was taken.”

It's easy to spot failing Management-Modeler relationships by means of the next 'Management-Modeler Symptoms Matrix'.....

If you happen to be a modeler in the upper left quadrant, get out as fast as you can!

May 30, 2010

Spanish Risk Management

Why does Europe support Greece with a bailout? And why will Europe support other PIGS countries when they get into trouble as well?

It all started with Greece.
After Greece joined the Euro (2001),  it became clear that the Greek government lied about its deficit, the Greeks simply 'cooked their books'.

Unfortunately there's no way back. The Greeks held us by the hand in their 'systemic dance'.  Ancient Greeks always believed that dancing was invented by the Gods. The Spartans not only danced before battles, they also fought with rhythmic movements to the strains of flutes. And so, still it is in the year 2010.

Let's dive a little deeper and ask ourselves the question why the EU needs to help Spain out, once it gets into trouble.

Just have a look at ING Bank, as a simple example.
In 2010 ING has a € 41.3 billion (total) exposure to Spain. That's 124% of their equity.

It's clear, despite of all effort in explaining and defending an excellent (?) risk policy in their 2009 annual report,

ING Risk Management Fails

Even an amateur in Risk Management and Diversification can tell you blind-sighted, that a single country exposure exceeding ING's total equity is a major and unacceptable risk.

What about the Dutch regulator?
This ING debacle also implies that Dutch supervisor DNB has failed as well. DNB did not notice the 'exposure mismatch' in ING's 'Spanish Risk Management' adventure.

If DNB continues 'checking boxes and formulas' while warning the whole world about every detailed risk, instead of using common sense, keeping an eye on the headlines and demanding adequate actions, the future of Financial Institutions will remain at risk. The control approach and attitude of DNB has to be fundamentally revised.

Other European Banks
Back to the banks. Although 'Exposure Lader Spain', ING turns out not to be the only bank at risk.

Just have a look at Deutsche Bank (DB). At first Deutsche bank stated that the exposure to Greece was 'very limited' and that they had 'no comment on others'.

On May 25, 2010 the DB CEO stated he has 500 million euros exposure to Greece in sovereign loans and debt and DB has no sovereign exposure to Spain and Portugal.

As we can conclude from a EVO Research report, these statements are simply not true.

It's clear that European Banks are not transparent about their exposures. They're hiding and mis-communicating information.

Thanks to the bailout and financial support of the European government, European banks are (temporarily) saved (by the bell).
Key Question: For how long?????

 Related Links / Sources:

Apr 30, 2010

The LORD and Risk Management

The (2010) Louisiana Oil Rig Disaster (LORD) shows that oil industry Risk Management Plans fail.

In general, Risk Management Plans are focusing too much on Risk Control, too little on Risk Prevention and certainly not enough at Damage Control.

The LORD shows us that a sufficient Plan B is missing. The only 'hope'  in the LORD's current Plan B was the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) at the bottom of the ocean.

Apart from the question whether that BOP has been tested well: what is Plan C if this BOP would fail, as it obvious does?

Plan C ?
Of course not, we don't need a Plan C. All we need is an adequate Plan B. Plan B should simply have included the installing of two other well tested BOPs at an appropriate distance under sea-level.

Supervisors fail as well
It was only after the LORD's appearance, that the House of Representatives began an investigation into "the competency of the companies' risk management and emergency response plans".

This action is a typical case of:

When the steed is stolen, the stable-door is locked

From all this (above) it's clear that not only Risk Managements Plans are failing, but also the preventive control of those plans by national supervisors.

Why care?
As an actuary you might think: BOPs and an exhausting Plan B are perhaps fine regarding the oil industry, but who needs those instruments in the financial industry?

Unfortunately, the financial industry makes the same mistakes as the oil industry. From a long list, in short, two financial examples:
  • Only after the dramatic fall of coverage ratios in 2009, Pension Funds started to make recovery plans (Plan Bs)
  • Only after Greece's financial crisis and the corresponding decline of the Euro, Europe started thinking whether or not they should help Greece out and developed a Plan B.

Rethinking Risk Management
It's undeniable, we fundamentally need to  rethink and restruct our Risk Management Plans.

Risk Control
First of all we'll have to distinguish more between Risk and Damage. Preventing, reducing and controlling Risk (not just damage!) is key. Testing and supervising (certification!) Risk Management Plans is a must and needs more attention.

Damage Control
Apart from  the probability of a Risk event, Damage Control needs more attention. Here 'Controlling' includes Reducing and definitively Stopping Damage. Both are essential. This implies that a serious Plan B is in place and regularly tested and approved by supervisors. This Plan B should include automatic shut off valves in every line of business and 'triple actions plans' in case a first or second case action plan B unexpectedly fails.

How to deal with Unthinkable Risks?
Moreover, to create effective Risk Management Plans, we have to deal with the issue of "Unthinkable Risks".

No matter how creative you and your organization are, one thing is sure: new 'risks you didn't think of' will always show up . Problem is that - just like the LORD showed us -  you'll only become aware of a new risk after its manifestation; when it's clearly too late.

A Risk Sensitive Mindset
This - however - doesn't mean that you can't deal with unthinkable risks. To manage unthinkable risks you'll have to create a 'Risk Sensitive Mindset' in your organization. It takes employees who are vigilant and empowered to take direct action. Creating such an organization pays off in more than one way, as vigilant employees will also have a nose for new business and sales opportunities.
This way, Risk Management costs are not just unavoidable costs but profitable investments.

The LORD and your own responsibility 
As we seem perfectly capable of managing our own personal life without a fifty-page Risk Management Plan, most likely this type of Employee Risk Attitude Development (ERAD) is the most important (but also most disregarded) part of Effective Risk Management. In this case the LORD can't help us, it'll have to be our own insight and decision to take action to develop risk sensitive and responding employees.

Still not convinced that ERAD is the right way ahead? Imagine what difference we actuaries could have made to the (financial) world if we would have been able to spot and address sub-prime mortgages or the weakness of our ALM models in an early stage.....

Many LORD's blesses and Good Luck with this new view on Risk Management!

Related Links / Resources:
- Government Branches Investigate Louisiana Oil Rig Disaster
- UBC: Case Studies of Engineering Failures
- SKY: Emergency Declared As Oil Approaches US Coast
- Strategic, organisational and risk management context