May 2014

From The Editors

By Carlos Fuentes and Stephen James


In this issue of the Independent Consultant, chairperson Nick Ortner continues to emphasize the themes of “service” and “change.” He describes how service to entrepreneurial actuaries is enhanced through the new “Entrepreneurs’ E-News” and access to GetAbstracts for downloadable material. Change is manifesting itself in the ways we are bringing entrepreneurs together, using new technologies as well as leveraging and building on existing methods. Nick urges us all to get engaged with the EAS Council, through contributions of time and communicating with council members.

Our May issue picks up our practice of offering useful information for entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs. We all benefit from sharing experiences and lessons learned in our different business environments. May’s issue contains the following articles:

  • Being a Team Player—Teamwork is critical to any organization’s success, large or small, private or public. Author Jay W. Vogt writes of the critical success factors for developing a team. These range from defining what the team is doing (it’s “charge”) to the parties who need the work done (the sponsors) to agreeing on a common team approach. Common sense would seem to dictate these requirements for success, but many of us can likely remember situations where the approach to work was, “Everyone start while we try to figure out what they need.” The approach and structure suggested here offer simple, yet effective guidelines to reaching team success.
  • The Actuary, There and Back Again—Tom Totten describes to us what happened when he enrolled in an Executive PhD program after he decided his 20 year actuarial career needed an injection of new ideas and direction. Enrolled in the unique program at Oklahoma State with business and country music titans, Tom learns how applying academic thought can have real business impact. He focuses on a marketing course and learning that business opportunities can arise when we understand how people make decisions, not always rationally. Can we apply these concepts to actuarial work? The jury is still out.
  • Envision Something Greater: The Facilitator of Excellence’s Formula for Success—nobody can be all things to all people in this world of increasing specialization. In his article, Paul Cronin, describes how a consultant can enhance and grow their business through the strategic connections they develop. Using a “partner-collaborative” business model can transform consultants into full-service providers through the collective abilities of all partners. Paul shows us how we can increase revenues, expand markets and reduce competition through strategic partnerships with other consultants with complimentary offerings to meet our clients’ broader needs.

These three entrepreneurs work in very different businesses and yet describe approaches and solutions that apply to almost any business organization. Are we interested in working effectively with coworkers? Does insight into how people make decisions have an effect on how we do business? Are we interested in growing revenues and beating the competition? If you have ideas or experience on how universal questions like these can be answered, we would love to hear it! By writing it down and sharing, you will have an opportunity to document and refine what you do in your own business, all while helping the actuarial profession.

In the same vein, if there is a business question you struggle with and you would like help answering, please let the editors know. It’s likely you aren’t the only one and your challenges and questions could benefit others, too! We will try to find someone out there who has been through it to help answer.

Carlos Fuentes, FSA, MAAA, FCA, MBA, MS, is vice president at Aon Hewitt. He may be reached at

Stephen James, FSA, FCIA is president at JEA Pension System Solutions. He can be reached at