Sunday, January 10, 2016

(No.297) "Is RickardsRead going away?"

"Is RickardsRead going away?"

by Alastair Rickard

After the posting of my December column about Joseph Belth's "Memoir" I received the following email from a Canadian actuary and (apparently) a regular reader of RickardsRead:

"Many thanks for your blog RickardsRead and particularly your latest post about Joe Belth earlier this month. I was beginning to wonder whether you'd taken a "permanent holiday" given the dearth of posts since late summer. Very pleased to learn, however, that that's not the case.

"By way of a brief introduction, I am an actuary with ties to the Canadian life insurance distribution network via my father who sold life insurance and managed career agents over his 27-year career with the Canadian branch of a US company. So, the issues and concerns -- about product design and marketing practices -- perennially described in the pages of
The Insurance Forum frequently resonated with me too. You were quite correct in noting the clarity of Joe Belth's written exposition, especially when one considers how much smoke passes for insurance industry analysis and reporting.

"Know too that you are also writing in the tradition of Joe Belth with your blog and thereby fulfilling an important role. The mainstream media seems unable to properly cover Canadian insurance company bad acts (e.g. mismanagement of par funds, unhedged seg fund products). Enter RickardsRead." 

This correspondent was generous in his comments about RickardsRead -- and he's correct when he points out the gradual decline in the rate of posting of my columns.

It's not that I lack subjects to address which engage or irritate me about politics, culture and business. My portfolio of interests is not diminishing.

What I seem to lack as I approach the writing of my 300th column for RickardsRead is my erstwhile level of motivation to pick up a pen rather than, say, the latest novel by C.J. Sansom or Robert Harris or to plan a trip.

After I put on the shelf T
he Canadian Journal of LIfe Insurance (which, while employed by a life insurance company, I founded and edited more years ago than I care to recall) I suggested that I had said everything I ever wanted to say about the insurance business -- at least twice. 

Of course that was hyperbole but seemed apt nonetheless as was my recent response to a request for my attention to a certain insurance subject:  I am now declining any invitation that would tend to render my life even more fragmentary and futile. 

That latter phrase has stayed with me from a reply I received decades ago from the Canadian writer and critic George Woodcock (1912-1995).

My correspondent inadvertently touched on another reason why I started both CJLI and RickardsRead when he referred -- quite rightly -- to "how much smoke  passes for insurance industry analysis and reporting ....The mainstream media seems unable to properly cover Canadain insurance company bad acts...."

Indeed the pret-a-porter certainties spread about in the business media concerning insurance companies and their industry suggest that many 'analysts' appear to remain personally and confidently innocent of any meaningful encounter with the business.

Unfortunately it is a feature of the financial world and its media groupies (or as I have dubbed them the 'financial services paparazzi') that so many of its inhabitants would rather be wrong as a group than right on their own (q.v., the 2007-8 financial meltdown). 

It's as if they believe that the thin gruel of their analysis will be inspissated by drawing upon one another through that great system of mutual quotation that characterizes so much of what one reads. 

I am not quite ready to put RickardsRead on the internet shelf. At the least there are a number of updates I feel compelled to add to columns I have written on a range of subjects, from the demutualization of the Economical Mutual Insurance Company to Canadian electoral reform.

Until then ....




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