Tag Archives: Nick Dumbreck

Reflections on the Life Conference 2011


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.

Nick Dumbreck

Reflections on the Life Conference and Exhibition 2010

It’s difficult to sum up one’s thoughts on the Life Conference considering the breadth of material presented over three full days.  So, what follows are some brief impressions.

Norman Lamont was an impressive keynote speaker, in terms of both delivery and content. I also thought the final panel session on Tuesday worked well, although I am still not sure how maintaining strict adherence to a 99.5% confidence level is compatible with a commercial and pragmatic approach to transitional arrangements.

Philipp Keller’s session on risk management in a global downturn was the pick of the workshops I attended – highly entertaining and thought-provoking, with the Swiss disdain for the very idea of an illiquidity premium strongly in evidence.  His “killer” scenarios are more deadly (and, perhaps, as he reasons, more likely) than most – a shame that the slides aren’t available yet.

Colonel Tim Collins performance on the night was somewhat disappointing—the inspirational leadership qualities that were so effective in Iraq didn’t quite find their way to Birmingham.  While many of the anecdotes were excellent,  transposing military experience into lessons for the commercial world lost something in translation, at least for me.

Some of the workshops I attended were light on original, leading-edge content.  I think we should be listening to experienced practitioners who can provide insights that are not readily available from published material – not always easy without breaching confidentiality I accept.  The scarcity of new thinking also suggests to me that the Chairman’s plea for more research within the actuarial community was well-founded.  Or perhaps I was just unlucky in my choice of sessions.

The venue was superb.  It was easy to move around, no long queues (except for the cloakroom – blame the weather), and excellent room facilities with reliable sound systems.
The Monday evening dinner was enjoyable  – more “special” than usual, with good decor and entertainment, and plentiful free drinks afterwards!

And finally … I live in hope that one day I will find a hotel with a fully functioning plug in the wash basin, so that I don’t have to keep the tap running while shaving.  Alas the quest continues.

See you all in Liverpool in November 2011.

Nick Dumbreck