August 2016

From the Editors


 Stephen james Carlos Fuentes
By Stephen James and Carlos Fuentes

Entrepreneurship and Innovation are the themes of our section. Can we map them? That is, can we find a how-to book that tells us in detail what to do in situation X to achieve outcome A? Contrary to what “airport” books lead us to believe, the answer is, sadly, negative. But what we can do is reflect on the thoughts of those who are entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs and innovators. However, don’t expect happy endings all the time. Life is not like that. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the path to entrepreneurship and innovation is completely uncharted. Rather, it is risky and can be rewarding. In this issue of The Independent Consultant we reflect on an approach to entrepreneurship that helps hedge the very real risk of failure. We also explore the sometimes misunderstood concept of innovation. It is a good idea to think carefully about it because many professions are betting on it. You may wonder, would an MBA increase my chances of becoming a successful entrepreneur, of developing innovative ideas, and of becoming successful as a business person? We consider that aspect as well. Although we operate in an environment of uncertainty where some ideas will become success and others failures, there are some that are always winners and some that always will be losers. Focusing on the former, the ability to make a good impression while addressing an audience will remain a key competency. We address this important skill as well. And remember that you need to keep up-to-date with new ideas because some of them will become driving forces. How do you do it when you don’t have time to read the many books that are published each year? We cover that too. Specifically, in this issue of The Independent Consultant, we offer the following:

  • Patrick McGinnis, an accomplished business person, talks to section member Stephen Camilli about his recent book, The 10% Entrepreneur. This article will be of interest to those who want to become entrepreneurs, but desire to reduce the risks of complete failure which, unfortunately, is so common in new enterprises. What makes the article special is the focus on actuarial work and actuaries. Patrick has concrete suggestions for those that want to become part-time entrepreneurs. If you like the article, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in the webinar that Stephen and Patrick will offer on Sept. 21 of this year.
  • Innovation has become a fashionable concept, but what does it really mean? Are the concepts of innovation and invention synonyms? Is innovation a good thing? If so, why do so many oppose it? If we want to become innovators, what considerations should be kept in mind? Are there examples of innovative thought in the actuarial field? If so, can you think of some of them? If you want answers to these questions please read Jay Jaffe’s article, “Becoming a More Effective Innovator.” Innovation is a big idea in the business education, so much so that many MBA programs are including courses on the subject, to the point that, as we know, our Section is called Entrepreneurial & Innovation.
  • Does it pay off to get an MBA after becoming a credentialed actuary? Opinions certainly differ and the answer depends on the circumstances of each specific case, but Mark Spong guides our thinking in his thoughtful article, FSA vs MBA, where he systematically examines the issue, estimates the required financial payoff and doesn’t lose sight of non-monetary considerations. This article is required reading for anyone who is considering investing time, money and energy in an MBA designation.
  • Each time you address an audience you have an opportunity to make a good impression, a bad impression, or no impression at all. Is it worth it to make the extra effort to prepare and energize your audience? If you are trying to sell a product or service, the answer is a clear “yes.” But even when this is not the case, say, when you are making a presentation within your company, being perceived as an effective communicator can only help you … and in some cases can help a lot. In their article, Energize Your Clients and Audiences, authors Jim Poage and Jennifer Poage discuss six techniques to energize your audience to act in the manner you desire. The first technique is to present your work as a story. The technique is efficient because humans are wired to pay attention to and understand stories, so much so that methods to improve your memory rely, in part, on the ability to develop relevant stories. The other five techniques are equally intriguing and useful. Without a doubt, you can become a more effective presenter if follow Jim’s and Jennifer’s advice.
  • Many have benefited from the book reviews of GetAbstract, a resource free to section members who want to keep up-to-date with current ideas in many fields. Kevin Pledge summarizes and recommends The Art of Start by Guy Kawasaki, particularly to those who wish to start a business. Mark Spong briefly talks about Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Thaler and Sunstein. Those of us who haven’t taken an actuarial exam in a long time will find it surprising and refreshing that this intriguing and fun-to-read book is required reading for one of the exams.

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? 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, can be reached at

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