Dear Reader, like me you are probably marshalling your thoughts for Christmas and, most importantly, preparing your gift list. Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to find that special present for your loved ones when there is so much gadgetry to choose from.
But these are uncertain times and the ideal gift for someone in the risk industry should relieve the pressures being experienced by insurance and reinsurance industry executives. What you want is something that will help you cope in ever-changing risk territory, isn’t it?
You like gadgets, but not the frivolous sort. How about a gadget that is also a mind improving gift? Start your list with a Kindle e-book reader (or its equivalent). You spend a lot of time traveling and hanging around in airports, you need something to read.
Better to have the gadget preloaded with a good book to read over the holiday break, while everyone else is playing games or snoozing. How about the second edition of The Black Swan: The Impact Of The Highly Improbable? You’re always quoting it and you always promised yourself you would actually read it. Now that author Nassim Taleb has added 100pp on the subject of robustness and fragility, this could be the time to finally tackle it.
(By the way, Mr Taleb says he is bored with talking about finance and is now moving on to climate change - so he’ll still have something for you to quote at any dinner parties where CROs are present.)
You might want a more workmanlike gadget on your list, in which case an iPad would do the trick. Come on, keep up. Simply everyone in reinsurance must have an iPad in 2011. Lloyd’s started the trend earlier this year when it joined with brokers Marsh, Cooper Gay and RK Harrison Group to pilot iPad use in its underwriting room.
Think, if you had one you would be able to update your linkedIn profile, browse the web, do your emails, listen to music and all the while carry around the “electronic slip case” de nos jours for all to see. Don’t be put off by the rumours that iPad 2 is set for release in the spring. In insurance terms you can still be seen as an early adopter.
What other gadget will satisfy your inner geek but also would help you in business? A new sat nav for the Audi of course. I don’t know where you are based but continental Europe is emerging as the place to be in 2011. You might be relocating the corporate HQ to Zurich; you might be opening a branch office Frankfurt; you might be planning both. In any case you will be spending a lot more time negotiating the autobahns and will need an up to date sat nav.
The good news is that it is now possible to purchase a sat nav set-up specially designed for reinsurance use. It has a special app onboard that let’s you know the whereabouts of specific corporate reinsurance HQs and also where branch offices are located across the continent. A further feature is that you can choose the voice of the person giving the directions. The choice of voices includes Warren Buffett’s homely mid-Western twang, the gallic charm of Scor’s Victor Peignet or the quintessential received pronunciation of Robert Hiscox.
OK. I made that last bit up. But it would be fun wouldn’t it?
Speaking of fun…
Jo Bryant, the London-based etiquette advisor for Debrett's, the UK's modern authority on all matters of manners and behaviour, recently provided Reuters with a guide on how to survive the office party. Her advice seems to be aimed at either aliens or actuaries, rather than actual human office workers. Here’s a sample:
* Don’t ditch your spouse at the party;
* Have a list of potential topics in mind that will help you get a conversation going;
* Try to avoid yes or no questions;
* Don’t look over a person’s shoulder while you talk to them;
* Don’t drink too much and do Lady Gaga on the karaoke;
* If you buy your boss a present make it hand lotion not perfume;
* Switch off mobile phones or set to silent.
In the olden days the office party was the one time of the working year when risk management was cast aside. It was a cathartic event that allowed everyone to be themselves - for better or worse. Now we have to act like pre-programmed, automated hand lotion dispensing machines.