As we return to our desks after another successful Life Conference, and in preparation for completing the Profession’s feedback survey, I have been collecting my thoughts on the highlights of this year’s event.
I have come to the conclusion that sessions on the state of the life assurance industry and what needs to be done to revitalise it are rarely very enlightening, because (perhaps not surprisingly) the speakers tend to say much the same things each year. The conflict between the desirability of consumption to promote economic growth in the short term and the undeniable need for greater saving to improve financial security in the longer term seems as intractable as ever.
As is often the case, the session on the economic outlook, this time presented by two economists from RBS with an emphasis on the European banking and sovereign debt crises, was for me the pick of the plenaries. Sir Richard Needham had some interesting things to say in his opening address, but I struggled to find a read-across from vacuum cleaners and milking machines to financial services.
Among the workshops I attended, two stood out. The session on Tax After Solvency II (which turned out to be a slight misnomer, as the change to basing tax on the accounts rather than the FSA returns is expected to come into force on 1 January 2013 regardless of the Solvency II start date) was full of useful information, and well presented by Matthew Little, Matthew Taylor and Andrew Rendell. Like several other sessions, it might have been even better if the time allowed had been longer, as there was little time for questions, and parts of the explanation seemed a bit rushed.
Another excellent workshop was “The sting in the tail”, delivered by John Roe of LGIM, one of this year’s hot topics and an object lesson in how to structure a presentation, as well as providing some very interesting insights into the dangers of cognitive bias when considering tail risks.
Liverpool was a revelation to many attendees I think – it seemed like a big building site when I last visited, but the transformation of the eastern part of the city centre and the dock area is impressive and the conference centre was very user-friendly.
The format of the conference still seems to work well, and the opportunity to catch up with contacts is tremendous, although I always miss many of the people I had hoped to talk to (perhaps they saw me coming!). I also need to work on my ability to conduct coherent conversations while listening to loud music – but I don’t think I am alone in that respect. Congratulations are due to the organising committee and the conference staff for putting on another very enjoyable event.
I look forward to seeing you in Brussels next year.