Who’s been reading

Here is a breakdown of the performance of this blog over the last couple of years since I began writing it.

As you can see it’s been growing at a steady clip over time. A lot of this is likely due to being better represented in googles archives. This is the year on year reader/viewer counts. The overall number is pretty low however better than nothing.

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Month wise you can see that the peaks in traffic happen around exam time – April and October get heavy traffic. Unusually December also sees a peak in traffic. There must be something festive about reading actuarial content. (wishful thinking)

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The week on week performance is fairly volatile – however one thing is obvious someone really thoroughly went through my content on Christmas week. Here’s to you buddy. 🙂

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So who’s been reading? Primarily Australians, Americans, Brits, Indians, and a good splattering of people from around the world. Not many Africans or middle eastern people by the looks of it.

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My most popular piece by far was about finding a root parent from a long format dataset using a little known data manipulation software called Alteryx. My subsequent most popular pieces are based on modelling methodologies. My piece on the Actuarial Code of Conduct didn’t get much love with only 13 views.

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Overall I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved with this blog thus far – and will continue to publish more pieces over time. Thanks for reading.

Alteryx – The elements of design

Alteryx has a few key tools that allow you to make your workflows design visually appealing.

The primary objects are:

  • Comment boxes
  • Containers
  • Explorer box

You can also choose to have your workflow run vertically or horizontally This is personal preference in most scenarios I will tend to use horizontal. I have used vertical in some instances where I thought it would be better suited.

Elements of design

  • LINE – The linear marks made with a pen or brush or the edge created when two shapes meet.
  • SHAPE – A shape is a self contained defined area of geometric (squares and circles), or organic (free formed shapes or natural shapes). A positive shape automatically creates a negative shape.
  • DIRECTION – All lines have direction – Horizontal, Vertical or Oblique. Horizontal suggests calmness, stability and tranquillity. Vertical gives a feeling of balance, formality and alertness. Oblique suggests movement and action
  • SIZE – Size is simply the relationship of the area occupied by one shape to that of another.
  • TEXTURE – Texture is the surface quality of a shape – rough, smooth, soft hard glossy etc.
  • COLOUR – Colour is light reflected off objects. Color has three main characteristics: hue or its name (red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is).



Alteryx Workflow Design Principles

Alteryx as we all know makes it very easy to get work done fast. One thing that can become overwhelming very quickly is a growing workflow. Everyone who’s used Alteryx probably has built a gargantuan web of a workflow – or if not will fall into this trap soon enough. Below are some principles of design that can be applied to building workflows.

The principles of design:

  • Balance – there should be an even dispersion of elements throughout the workspace
  • Proximity – related sections in a workflow should be kept close to each other
  • Alignment – tools and subsections should line up along a common axis (use ctrl + right/left arrow to make fine adjustments)
  • Repetition – elements in the workflow should be designed similarly so as to create a sense of consistency
  • Contrast – highlight key elements using contrast. e.g. heading comments can be shaded a darker colour to contrast from to ensure sub-segments are easy to identify
  • Space – elements should be separated by an appropriate amount of space – clutter should be removed or hidden using containers

To achieve this I tend to use primarily comment tools to section up the workflow into neat liner and parallel sections. You can use the container tools to group a bunch of tools together or hide redundant groups of tools.

Alteryx Design Principles

Stay Ahead Of The Risk Curve: Risk Governance And Risk Culture

What follows is a brief summary of the key points from the ‘Stay Ahead of Risk Curve’ presentation given by APRA.

Risk management and capital management fundamental in the management of an institution. Risk management helps institutions avoid financial difficulties – Capital management provides the buffer once a problem has occurred. It has been a part of the prudential standards for a number of years.

Risk Governance is the way in which risk is managed at a holistic and day to day level across an organisation.

Other developments in the field of risk (specifically relating to financial service organisations)
– Remuneration policy (encourage long term focus)
– Risk Appetite statement (clearly articulated & embedded in operations)
– Assessment of Risk Management Framework (RMF)
– LAGIC (more risk-sensitive capital requirements)
– ICAAP Statement (discloses arrangements in place to monitor & manage risks and the capital held against them, including stress testing & scenario analyis)


Below follows a summary of the requirements of whistleblowing as it relates to Actuaries as stipulated by the Actuaries Institute of Australia.

Broadly defined as ‘speaking out’ about perceived wrongdoing in an organisation.Supervisory whistleblowing involves reporting infringements to a regulator. Actuaries have a duty to report infringements under certain circumstances. Actuaries are regarded as trusted advisors and privy to internal commercial dealings. In many cases infringements can be resolved internally without the need to report. If not resolved then there are various processes that need to be followed.

Key Demands of Actuaries

  • active concern for policy holders and beneficiaries
  • alertness to red flags
  • confront or report to regulator

Legal Duties

  • Duty vs Discretion
    • Duty
      • APRA notice to disclose
      • Solvency
      • Policyholders’ interests
      • non-compliance
    • Must have reasonable grounds for belief
    • Two key exceptions
      • Informed of matter by a director or senior manager
      • Informed by either that matter has been disclosed to APRA
    • Discretion
      • No legal obligation to whistleblow
      • Believe it is important to disclose some information to APRA
      • No legislated timeframe for reporting discretion

Legal Protections

  • Qualifying disclosures
    • Made by someone supplying services to entity
    • Must be made to person or body stipulated in legislation
    • Name must be disclosed prior to disclosure
    • Information contains misconduct or improper state of affairs
    • Information may assist functions of legislated body
    • Made in good faith without negligence
  • Protections
    • Privileges
      • privilege against self-incrimination
        • right to refuse to answer a question that would incriminate the member
      • qualified privilege
        • allows free communication without being at risk to a defamation action
    • Compensation
    • Confidentiality
    • Threats to whistleblowers
    • Indemnity
    • Non-termination of contract

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Eigth habit of Highly Effective Actuaries

In this post I note a number of key points on the topic of communication for Actuaries from a pack produced by Andrew Brown presented within the Commercial Actuarial Practice course offered within part 3 of the Actuarial Institute of Australia as part of the curriculum.

Perception of Actuaries
Market Opportunities Research Report
– Employees perceive that very few actuaries have limited skills to produce common sense strategic solutions and communicate them effectively
– Actuaries provide elegant solutions to quant problems … fail to translate into actionable insights

John Trowbridge Presidential Address 1998
– we are respected for our numeracy .. regarded as academic and impractical, obscure & indecisive… miss the big picture

1999 Stakeholder Research Private Health
– unable to express issues to non-actuaries .. tendency towards complexity

– perception will continue
– job prospects will be taken up by other disciplines

Communication Control Cycle
1 Specify communication need
2 Understand the Audience
3 Solve communication need
4 Develop content/structure according to audience
5 Monitor audience feedback

Tailor communication to audience
– global v specific – domain
– towards v away from – direction
– emotional v logical – psychological
– matcher v mismatcher – accuracy
– black white v continuum – clarity/decisiveness
– why v how v what – question

– objective
– drivers
– language

– flexibile
– targeted
– delivery – body language, tonality
– simplified
– enough to get job done
– respect
– memorable
– connection

– assess response
– understand rather than be understood
– respond appropriately

Communication in an Actuarial Context

Factors that influence ability to communicate
– complexity
– pre-disposition
– desire
– nature
– breadth of audience
– education
– domain specific language
– pride in profession
– understanding
– specialisation

The three stages of a professional
1 learning the technical terms
2 using them
3 learning not to use them

Actuarial Code of Professional Conduct

In this post I provide a brief summary of the actuarial code of professional conduct as stipulated by the Australian Actuaries Institute. (Nov 2009) The code was first issued in 1976 and has had a number of revisions since.

The code covers all aspects of the conduct of members in their duties and sets out the minimum standards of professional conduct.

The code applies to all members – where members are working abroad they must comply with the local association’s code, though they must be a member of the IAA. If they are not then they must comply with this or an amended version of the code that has been prescribed or approved by Council. Non compliance with the code may lead to penalties. In areas where statutory requirements conflict with this code then the statutory requirements take precedence.

Public Interest

Members bound by the code have the responsibility to serve the public interest. To do this a member must comply with the law, the constitution, the code  and any relevant professional standards when conducting their role. If these are complied with then they would have met the expectations of the public interest. The institute is reliant on the conscience of members to ensure this is upheld. If a case arises where a member finds another member in breach of the code – then the member is required to the discuss the matter with the other member to resolve it. If it can’t be resolved or the member believes the discussion would be ineffective then they must seek guidance. Following these steps if there is no resolution the member must make a complaint.

Professional Conduct

The code requires members to act with:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Due care
  • and uphold the reputation of the Institute

Members are required to ensure any information provided in the form of advice, report, communication is not knowingly false, misleading or deceptive. However there is leeway given in the form of differences of opinion between members. Members are allowed to hold their own views as long as it is done in a measured and reasonable manner and avoids maligning the reputation of another member. Members should seek appropriate guidance (legal or professional) if unsure.

Professional Experience

Members must continue to develop their professional skills and maintain their knowledge and skill based on generally acceptable levels. Members are required to be competent in the relevant area prior to providing professional services.


Advice given must be impartial. Members must not act or give advice if there are constraints placed on their professional judgement if they affect impartiality.

Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts with a principal arise due to:

  • member’s own interests
  • interest of member’s firm
  • duty to another principal

Conflicts tend to arise as a result of remuneration contingent to advice given. Members are required to manage such conflicts to avoid breaching the code. This can be done through disclosing the conflict or declining to act. The member should disqualify them self from providing professional services if the conflict can not be managed. Steps taken to manage the conflict should be appropriately documented. Full disclosure must be made to the principal being provided the professional service.


Members must maintain the confidentiality of the Principal that has sought professional services. Any breach must be reported to the Principal. The law however may require the member to breach the Principal’s confidentiality.

Misuse of Professional Services

Members must not provide professional services if they believe that these will be misused in order to break the law or to mislead third parties. If a member believes that this has happened the Principal receiving the service must be alerted. This must be clarified in writing. The member should work with the principal to rectify this.

If this can not be done in a reasonable time and the impact could be materially damaging to third parties then appropriate legal or professional advice should be sought and appropriate actions taken. The obligation to third parties is greater than confidentiality.

Members should reconsider their relationship with principal’s whose action are not legal or honest.

Co-operation with others

Members are required to co-operate with third parties providing services to the Principal. In dealing with other members of the institute members are required to ensure adequate handover. Advice that differs materially to the prior appointee must be explained thoroughly.

Members replacing other members should consult with the prior member to ensure there are no professional reasons to decline taking on the new role.


Professional Indemnity Insurance must be held in scenarios where professional services are being provided to retail customers or in situations where the law does not specifically impose it.

Often the member’s firm would cover this.


Professional qualifications must be disclosed on any written advice and/or entering into employment. The term ‘Actuary’ should only be used if the member is a Fellow or accredited by the institute. Members are allowed to publicise their services so long as it is not false, misleading, deceptive or contrary to the law.


Reporting should be appropriate in regards to:

  • the audience
  • fitness of purpose
  • likely significance
  • capacity of the member
  • any inherent uncertainty and risks in relation to the subject

It should comply with any relevant Professional Standard.

Prescribed Actuarial Advice

Only eligible actuaries are allowed to provide prescribe advice. All prescribed advice must be seen to be provided by the eligible actuary except for in the case of the advice of an expert in the field. The eligible actuary is required to disclose the advice received from the expert if responsibility is not assumed. Where the responsibility of the use of the advice from the expert is assumed by the member then the expert need not be disclosed.

If prescribed advice is to be transmitted to third parties then the actuary must disclose whether this should be in entirety or in part and any material implications communicated. Even if the advice is not to be provided to third parties the member is required to disclose in what capacity it can be used.

Insurance principles

  • Business should be insurable
  • Risk assessable
  • Cover clearly defined
  • Insurer has right of refusal for cover
  • Adequate premiums charged
  • Rates affordable
  • Rates reflect differences in risk
  • Rates & Underwriting should minimise anti selection
  • Claim management firm & fair