November 2016

From The Editor

By Carlos Fuentes

Few SOA sections emphasize the business importance of communication skills as much as we do. And there is a reason for that: our roles are technical, but we often make presentations and in some cases, we must convince. And convince with a limited opportunity to do so. This is why brevity matters. But so does the content of your message. It makes sense then, to invest time in crafting messages that increase the chances of having an idea approved, winning a contract or just making a good impression. How far should you go in improving your communication skills? Well, far enough. You should be able to write and speak well. You should be ready for that one-minute opportunity that may come only once in a while. Ideally, you should learn another language if not doing so holds you back. And, of paramount importance, you should be a good storyteller.

Our section also spends time becoming acquainted with the paths of actuaries in non-traditional roles and actuaries working in other countries. In a way, we are becoming more international; in another, more regional. And less traditional. Technology certainly has forced us to change and in some cases—not in all—to be more productive. Do you remember something called a floppy disk? But technology alone is unlikely to be the only driving force for change: strategy will always be the discipline that should guide our thinking.

I believe that reading the following articles is time well spent—you might even decide to contact the authors or the editor to share your views on these topics:

  • In his article, “Annoyed by Elevator Speeches? Try an ‘Impact Message’ Instead!” thought leader Ken Lizotte, shows how to craft an impact message in five steps: (i) the attention grabber; (ii) the explanation; (iii) the result; (iv) the suggestions; and (v) the repetition. Have you ever tried to write a mission statement? A capability statement? Have you ever approached someone to promote your company? If so, you understand the importance of preparation. Here is your chance to be ready for that elusive opportunity that may only knock on your door from time to time.
  • The amazing power of story telling goes back to the beginning of civilization. It is a well documented fact that storytelling has inspired individuals and nations, and that some of the most effective memorization techniques are based on stories. Can we use storytelling to become better communicators in our business dealings? The answer is affirmative. In their most recent article, “Five Reasons Why Storytelling is Such an Essential Tool for Actuaries”, authors Jenn and Jim Poage explain that in order to tell energizing stories we must understand how stories inspire people. This understanding, it turns out, not only makes us better communicators, it helps explain some marketing successes and failures.  After reading this article you might go back to review a few lines of The Odyssey or The Aeneid. Funny how subjects that seem entirely unrelated (classical literature and business communications) have much in common.
  • In our most recent interview of actuaries in academia, Filadelfo León-Cázares tells us about his educational background, starting with a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science at the National University of México, and finishing with a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of North Texas. At the early stages, his professional journey was typical for a Mexican actuary, but it led him to a somewhat unexpected place: the Department of Quantitative Methods and Fiscal Studies at the University of Guadalajara.  As Filadelfo shares his views about the profession, he tells us about the education system in México and makes interesting remarks about the profession in the country that, along with Brazil, produces the greatest number of Latin American actuaries.
  • Section member Bill Rearden summarizes the getabstract! review of Elevate—The Three Disciplines of Advance Strategic Thinking (incidentally, getabstract! is a free benefit to section members). Bill quickly grabs our attention by telling us the questions the book is set to answer: (i) why strategy matters; (ii) why many companies fail at strategy; (iii) what components make up a good strategy; and (iv) how to strategize.

I would love to hear from The Independent Consultant’s readers. Suggestions, comments, criticism. Anything that helps us serve our members and the profession better.

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