August 2014

From the Editors

By Carlos Fuentes and Stephen James

Carlos Fuentes    ind-con-stephen-james

Technical expertise, the hallmark of our profession, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. Over time this statement has become more relevant as we compete with other professionals while trying to identify areas where we can compete, succeed and add value. With this in mind, the August issue of The Independent Consultant covers the following topics: 

  • Chasing the X Factor in Leadership: Executive Presence”―In The Edge of the Sword, Charles De Gaulle stated that "... though there is something in what we call a natural gift of authority which cannot be acquired [...] there are also a number of constant and necessary elements on which it is possible to lay one's finger, and these can be acquired or developed." Suzanne Bates and Scott Weighart talk about some of these elements and emphasize what the actuarial profession recognized some time ago: Managerial success requires more than technical abilities. If you want to learn abut the X factor and executive presence this article is for you.
  • Columbia Invades Bermuda” ―Michael Frank continues to describe certain aspects of the hands-on approach of Columbia University’s actuarial program (see also The Healthcare Journey Continues in the August 2013 issue of The Independent Consultant). This time students of the master's program travel to Bermuda to meet with senior managers of international insurance and reinsurance companies. Michael describes how students gained knowledge and benefited from personal conversations with seasoned executives. The Columbia approach blends the theoretical foundations of actuarial science with the real-world expertise of practicing actuaries. Would you want to become involved? Do you have suggestions about actuarial educations? Michael, Don Rusconi and Noor Rajah, the program director of the actuarial program at Columbia University, would love to hear from you.
  • Entrepreneur and Canadian Actuary on Enterprise Risk Management and Personal Best Practices”―Entrepreneur and enterprise risk management (ERM) expert Minaz Lalani describes how he became interested in ERM and how his actuarial background helped him succeed in this relatively new practice area. Minaz reflects on what motivated him to become an entrepreneur and the steps he took to start his own business. He also talks about managerial skills―that elusive asset that is so important and so scarce in the business world. Anybody interested in entrepreneurship and ERM will find this article valuable.
  • Biz-Write, Biz-Speak”―Co-editor Carlos Fuentes reflects with humor on the type of convoluted communication that is not unusual in certain business circles. Why say or write the trend is 5 percent when one can sound smart by stating that the trend is calculated by multiplying two by 7.5 percent, adding 0.03, subtracting 17 percent and then multiplying by 500 percent?

Are there ideas in this issue that resonate with you? Do you have questions for the authors? Is there a topic that you would like to discuss? Can you remember advice that proved valuable in your career? Are there any “truths” that held you back in your career? What are your views about the future of the actuarial profession? How can we help shape that future? Is there anything you believe every actuary should know but many don’t? What can the section do to be more relevant to your career? We would like to hear from you. 

Stephen James, FSA, FCIA, is president at JEA Pension System Solutions. He can be reached at Carlos Fuentes, FSA, FCA, MAAA, MBA, MS, is president at Axiom Actuarial Consulting. He can be reached at