August 2017

From The Editor

By Carlos Fuentes

It has been a while since the pipeline of Innovators & Entrepreneurs has been as robust at it is now, so let’s go straight to the point with our August offerings:

  1. A Reflection on John Bragg’s “The Future of the Actuarial Profession as Viewed in A.D. 1974”—In this interview with former SOA president John (Jack) Bragg, Mark Spong and Brittany Lee take a journey back in time to compare Jack’s predictions with actual developments. In the process they share with us Jack’s insights, many of which are as relevant today as they were 43 years ago. A prolific thinker and a renaissance man, Jack was probably the first actuary to engage in futurism. But futurism for Jack has never been the kind of work that thinkers carry out in their armchairs, rather, it is the task of doers who look at the horizon while they shape it.
  2. The Increasing Number of Opioid Overdose Deaths in the United States—In this sobering article, Rebecca Owen describes the devastation wrought by potent drugs and concludes that based on existing evidence the future is bleaker—the outcomes of initiatives aimed at solving the problem have produced mixed results at best, but the problem is growing exponentially. The time for decisive—almost desperate—measures is fast approaching. Will actuaries be part of the solution?
  3. Policy, Economic and Investment Management Implications of Low or Negative Interest Rates—It is one of those textbook examples: a situation that is theoretically possible but none takes it seriously until it happens. We are talking about negative interest rates. Is this a good thing? After all, we always complain about inflation. Author Yin Kon explains why ultra low interest rates are pernicious to the financial sector. Understanding the economics of very low interest or negative rates is a bit like visiting Wonderland because some things look strange—safe investment instruments can become risky, pension plans can become insolvent, and so on. The benefits of the journey, i.e., reading the article, are well worth the trip with Alice.
  4. Insurance as a Social Enterprise—Frequent contributor Nicholas Yeo provides a blueprint of how to set up such an operation.
  5. InsurTech Update—Bill Rearden talks about recent events in InsurTech—the space occupied by insurance start-ups that use new technologies. InsurTech is important because it could generate innovation in the insurance field. Wall Street seems to think this way.
  6. Classical Thinking Part I—This is the first in a series of four articles written by Carlos Fuentes to illustrate the “soft” approach of game theory using Thucydides’ master work, The History of the Peloponnesian War, and then appling it to analyze the strategic interactions of those who participate in the U.S. health care system. A short version of the entire paper was published in the July/August 2017 issue of Contingencies under the title “A Rigged Game?”
  7. Timeless Thinking Series: On Generalship—In this excerpt from Polybius’ masterpiece, The Rise of the Roman Empire, the author addresses aspects of leadership and strategy, qualities that are as valuable they as scarce.

We are interested in learning what our readers think and what kind of articles they find useful. We are also looking for entrepreneurs and innovators that want to share with our readers the knowledge they have acquired by doing. We welcome good ideas, old and new. Please contact us with your thoughts.

Carlos Fuentes, FSA, MAAA, is president at Axiom Actuarial Consulting. He can be reached at