May 2017

From The Editor

By Carlos Fuentes

It was our mutual interest in game theory that allowed Jack and me to become acquainted with each other and then correspond. In each message, I learned something new. Jack wrote an article on game theory as applied to insurance products in 1966, probably the first serious piece on the subject in an actuarial publication and one of the very few ever published. Then I found out that he wrote about futurism and the prospects of the actuarial profession in 1974. In another email, I learned that he had been president of the SOA in 1975–76. The pleasant surprises didn’t stop there. Then the section unexpectedly received a submission, an article that deals with innovation in the life insurance field. I admit that I hear a lot about this concept, but I seldom see examples of what actuaries and other professionals consider innovation. I am glad to see someone explaining in plain English what the life insurance industry is doing to move forward.

Talking about moving forward, entrepreneurs know that the best way to prosper is to grow profitably. How can this be done? Well, by increasing sales. Easy, isn’t it? Not really. Not really, but there are techniques that improve the chances of success.

In addition to the scars that inevitably come along with attempts at creating something (experience, some may say), entrepreneurs tend to be good readers because success in the real world usually demands a good understanding of the ecosystem in which innovators operate. Why not learn from the teachings of those with outstanding minds? I confess that the first point—that entrepreneurs are good readers—has no more basis than my personal experience and a little bit of Sherlock Holmes-type deductive analysis. Under this premise, it makes sense to devote a section of Innovators & Entrepreneurs to “Timeless Thinking.” Some ideas will be familiar, others new, some surprising, a few shocking, many inspiring, but all of them the result of careful pondering by great thinkers.

To make these ideas concrete, here are our offerings for May:

  • Interview with John (Jack) M. Bragg—Did you watch A Beautiful Mind? What do you know about the origin of the sections of the SOA? What do you know about the history of the enrolled actuary exams? Have you heard about the New Health Contingencies? What do you think is the future of the actuarial profession? You’ll find answers to these questions and a few surprises in this inspiring interview of John Bragg who in his mid-90s remains very engaged in his actuarial work.
  • Innovation in the Canadian Life Insurance Industry—Much has been said about innovation in the insurance industry. Melissa Carruthers describes how underwriting has improved, new products have been created, distribution channels have been re-engineered, and more. With concrete examples it is possible to compare the evolution of the insurance industry with that of other sectors of the economy and imagine what the future might bring.
  • How to Turn Suspects into Prospects—Ray Mascola makes several common-sense observations that most of us ignore perhaps because we don’t have the discipline to follow tactics that work. The sad truth is that whereas potential income in our business could be in the millions or hundreds of millions of dollars, it is of little use unless we can capture some of it. Are there sales techniques that increase our chances to do so? Yes, there are. You’ll find some in this article and you’ll be able to make use of them immediately.
  • Timeless Thinking: Machiavelli’s Letter to Francesco Vettori—Here is a passage that shows the real Machiavelli and hopefully casts doubts about the caricatures of his ideas, prevalent in pop culture. Timeless thinking inspires.

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