July 2013

Letter from the Editors

Rich Junker and Paul Ramirez

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      Rich Junker                      Paul Ramirez

Andrew Chan is now emeritus co-editor of the CompAct newsletter. He offers a final contribution for this issue’s letter, sharing a poignant visit to a client:

“I recently visited a client for a new Excel migration project. When I arrived at his office, he was busy on his Excel workbook. I took a look at what he was up to. He was trying to manually remove duplicate rows. His Excel workbook has over 100 worksheets, and each worksheet has a few thousand records. He sorted the records and manually looked for duplicate records, then deleted the duplicate rows. He had been doing this job for days. I couldn't resist, and showed him that Excel has an existing feature to remove duplicate rows. On the Data tab, in the Data Tools group, click Remove Duplicates. That's all! He was excited, and he started to remove duplicates in the next worksheet. I asked if he would let me write a simple VBA to loop through all worksheets and remove duplicates. In less than 30 minutes, all duplicates were removed. I even found out he had accidentally deleted non-duplicate rows.

It is a simple story. Removing duplicates is a simple Excel feature. This powerful Excel feature did not make it into our top 20 advanced skills in the recent Excel survey from last issue. Yet it saved this consulting actuary a whole week of work. Not to mention that it revealed and eliminated the error of deleting non-duplicate rows, restoring the integrity of his worksheet. I still learn something new in Excel every week.”

Imagine his family at home, his wife rubbing his sagging shoulders at days’ ends over the sacrifices of their dedicated bread-winner, laboring into deep hours of his workweek, yet unknown to them logging zero billable hours for all his actuarial reverences.

Do we need to sharpen our skills? Stephen Covey had it right.* Abe Lincoln had it right: “If I had ten hours to chop a pile of wood, I would give nine of the hours to sharpening my axe.”

* Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, http://www.franklincovey.com/tc/.

The Covey organization, legendary and omnipresent 20 years ago, thriving still but perhaps no longer omni-known, is an outstanding source for training in leadership and time management. Covey is a prime resource for working out your own personal development plan, using the Competency Framework tool of the Society of Actuaries.

Andrew Chan, ASA, is a financial model engineer with ALG Consulting. He can be contacted at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

Rich Junker, FSA, CLU, MAAA, is an actuarial consultant at Junker Consulting in Tampa Bay, and can be contacted at richardjunker@tampabay.rr.com.

Paul Ramirez, ASA, MAAA, is an associate actuary, Actuarial, at Allstate Benefits in Jacksonville, Fla. He can be contacted at pcramirez@gmail.com.