Showing posts with label rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rules. Show all posts

May 1, 2011

The Ten Actuarial Commandments

We all (think to) know The Ten Commandments from the holy scripts by heart, do we?

Now close your eyes to see how far you can get in quoting those simple ten guidelines in life.............

The Ten Commandments for Investors
Just like the Ten Commandments for Man, God - more specific - created The Ten Commandments for Investors. Let's compare the two, while - at the same time - you can check out your Commandment-Memory on Man as well:

Risk-Return-Supervision Development
As you may have noticed, The Ten Commandments are a mix of rules-based and principles-based principles.

Just as in our own life, it's interesting to see how we apply and implement these two different kind of rules during the evolution of a financial institution (insurance company, pension fund, bank, etc.):

In time, the ideal supervision model consists of three phases:

  • Phase I: No rules
    In this phase we cannot value or the company. Chances are substantial the company is 'at risk'.

  • Phase II: Rules-Based Supervision
    In phase Ia 'Rules' are mostly perceived as 'Have to's" . As a result Risk will be reduced, but Return as well. Once the board, actuaries and financial specialists are becoming aware and will see the advantages and new possibilities of managing risk. 'Have to's" will develop into 'Want to's" . The Risk-Return Ratio will increase  and even a better Return will result.

  • Phase III: Principles-Based Supervision
    Just like with the implementation of Rules-based Supervision, in case of Principles-Based Supervision, the Financial Institution needs time to adept to the new situation. At first there might be a unbalance between Risk and Return. It takes time to calibrate Risk and Return again.

    After a while actuaries, investors and management will translate Rules-Based principles into own rules that fits the company's specific risk in an optimal way. The company will be able to take more risk and to optimize its own Risk-Return Ratio.

Take a look at your own company's development and see for yourself where you fit in on the Risk-Return-Supervision lines....

It might be possible that you have to conclude that you aren't able to increase your Risk-Return ratio in the end. In this case it's likely you've become (so called) 'Supervisory Compliant': Your risk appetite probably corresponds more or less with the supervisor's minimal risk view. Instead of redefining your own risk appetite and restructuring your products from a risk-management perspective you merely implied new regulations and supervisor guidelines. As a result your Return and Risk-Return Ratio implode....

Ten Actuarial Commandments
Having learned the possible effects of supervisory rules in practice, we may now conclude with The Ten Commandments for Actuaries.

The Ten Commandments for Actuaries
  1. There's only one God, as he's omnipotent he's also an actuary.
    As you're only an actuary: be humble.....    Remember: As God wants something in Return, you'll have to take Risk!!
  2. Reality can't be comprised in a model.
    Use your brains. A model is a help, not a decision machine. Don't mix up God with Risk or Chaos. Chaos for us humans (actuaries) can be defined as "Unrecognized Order" (quote). 
  3. Never blame anything or anyone than yourself for an unexpected or negative outcome.
  4. Be consistent, act sustainable. But change your opinion just in time, if circumstances or facts urge you to do so.
  5. Alway show respect to others, even if you think different. Appreciate where you come from. Nobody is perfect, not even you.
  6. As there is no 'right' model, never criticize other models, actuaries or other people. Try to give your opinion without slaughtering the other.
  7. Never advice or state anything you do not really mean or cannot defend.If you're not sure or don't know, tell it or get help.
  8. Always cite your sources or give credits to others that helped you.
  9. Don't 'steal' the advice.
    Never include the final decision to be taken in your advice. Wrap up arguments, consequences and present scenario's so the board has to make a choice and not you.
  10. Don't get carried away by results, reports or performances of others.
    Stick to your own consistent approach.

Apply supervisory rules and actuarial commandments in a conscious way...

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)

Jul 16, 2009


What's that spell? Hypegiaphobia?

Yes, Hypegiaphobia is the unpronounceable 'short' for:

A fear of responsibility

In a 2008 white paper, called Hypegiaphobia, KPMG stresses the importance that organizations want to be and must be 'in control' of a multitude of risks and therefore make enormous sacrifices to achieve this goal.

CEO, management and employees have to comply to so many simultaneous goals, and the consequences of not being compliant on a single issue are that high, that people fear to take individual responsibility in a organization.

In search of the balance between rules and trust, KPMG
calls upon the parties involved to provide more space for individual responsibilities. In the mentioned white paper KPMG answers two key questions:

  • Are the high investments in risk management effective and do they really lead to a lower risk profile?

  • Does risk management overshoot its goal and produce undesirable effects, such as reduced entrepreneurial spirit, increasing litigation, a culture of fear and a potentially adverse effect on the competitive position?

Trust Rules

Moreover, in 2009 KPMG extended their view on Hypegiaphobia by publishing a document called 'Trust Rules'.

Guts, vision and trust go hand in hand in a time of increasing litigation.

Lately, numerous persons and organizations in the Netherlands have had the guts to “unplug”. Unplug is a new work style by which numerous (compliance) issues are handled in unconventional ways :
  • Getting rid of unnecessary rules, of fixed places and times
  • Dealing better with knowledge
  • Collaborating more
  • Taking more personal responsibility
All this with a a single focus: The client.

To organize trust and to be able to trust, KPMG has formulated (on basis of client interviews) nine principles they call trust rules (mark: the noun has turned into a verb) :
  1. Make contact personal
  2. Define common goals
  3. Set the right example
  4. Build trust with sensible rules
  5. Share responsibility and trust
  6. Stay on course and keep calm, even when things go wrong
  7. Rely on informed trust, not on blind trust
  8. Be mild on misunderstanding but crush abuse
  9. Dare to experiment and learn from experience


In a document called Signs of Safety, risk is defined as an increasingly defining motif of the social life of western countries.

However, risk is almost always seen as negative, as something that must be avoided.

Killing Black Swans
To put it simply: everyone is worried about been blamed and sued for something. Thus organizations have become increasingly risk-averse to the point of risk-phobia. Elimination of every Black Swan risk at any price, seems the unrealistic and never ending target.

New solutions
The challenge for management, actuaries and accountants is to see and define Risk in terms of a potential big win and investment instead of only a potential big loss. This also means that - as a society - we have to reformulate rules and laws in a way that risks can be taken in such a way that failure, bankruptcy are or catastrophes are not (nearly) completely excluded anymore.

Often economies of scale lead to the rise of international (financial) companies that overshadow individual countries in terms of VAR.
If country governments of such 'inhabited' international enterprises are convinced that an eventual bankruptcy of such a company would create great collateral damage and therefore is not an realistic option, things will have to change. In these cases governments have no other choice than to order by law:
  • a limitation of (international) company size
  • a limitation of reciprocal contracts between big companies
  • to demand and allow companies to restructure themselves in such a way that, in case of a catastrophe, only a part of the company goes bankrupt and not the company as a whole

In these cases state (re)insurance is not a preferable solution. Pricing this risk would be too expensive or - even worse - not charging for this risk would lead to a situation where management can take every risk they want, because in case of a bankruptcy, the government would back up anyhow.

Risk-Phobia Virus
As actuaries we're extremely vulnerable to the 'risk-phobia virus'.
Let's not get caught by this virus or hide in the bush, but take a calculated risk and go out to present our new solutions that make the difference in tomorrows risky world. Risk..., a never ending issue....

Links: Hypegiaphobia Video , List of phobia's, Dutch nine trust rules
Sources: Signs of Safety