Healthtech and the future of Underwriting

Once upon a time there weren't really regular doctors or good medical records. Most people didn't see a doctor frequently - that was something only rich people could afford. To buy insurance back then requiring access to medical records wasn't insisted upon - a medical check-up was. But today medical records, plus tests, are routinely required. Data from wearables is still seen as largely a gimmick - unreliable, used only by a few, and only marginally useful. But perhaps there will come a time when wearable data streams and other healthtech data (implants that do monitoring, for example) is seen as mandatory, and the alternative will be non-underwritten cover. 

How Curiosity, Not Education, Protects the mind from Bias and Prejudice

If, like me, you are a salesperson, then you have some experience of people who are rigid in their ideas, and how hard it can be to change them. Merely providing new data doesn't usually work. A bit of a shame that, but people tend to view what they know already as more reliable - for obvious reasons when you think about it - and the more time they spent acquiring that knowledge, the more weight they apply. 

If you have ever had to change your mind about something - and I sincerely hope you have, since continuous perfection is unlikely - then you may also know how hard that it is. So this article on getting stuck in your ways is a great thing to read if you want to explore new ideas, and learn more about how to change your own mind and the mind of others. Link

Friday Fun: All Blacks, by the numbers

Just how good is the current All Black side? The Economist can be relied upon to hunt down a quantitative answer, so if you want to know the win/loss percentage against any tier one side versus the All Black (at a neutral ground) then you should take this article as your starting point. I say starting point because it links to an even more detailed stats website focused on rugby if you wish to lose the better part of next week to the subject. 

But if you want to know how the All Blacks got this way, especially when you want to see how it came to be from an outsider's perspective, then you should take in this long article which covers the game from a grass-roots training and development perspective

Meditation Can Knock Seven years off Age of Your Brain

According to Scientists meditation doesn't just relax the mind and body, it can also help keep the brain young.

A study was done on 50 meditators and 50 non-meditators and focused on the activity and age of their brains.

"The researchers said that the combination of intense concentration and relaxation may trigger the growth of new brain cells. Although they did not look at whether the meditators were also smarter, brain shrinkage is linked to Alzheimer's and other brain diseases."

"But the meditators' brains were younger than their years, with the average 50-year-old having a brain that belonged in a 42 or 43-year-old's body. The benefits were particularly great for older meditators."

Read more here.

Self-forming Groups and Insurance

In the past I have written about self-forming groups and insurance. Sometimes these are referred to as peer-to-peer models of insurance. Generally I have not been impressed by these groups. Consumers find it so hard to understand insurance at the best of times, how could they possibly self-organise something as complex as an insurance company?

I still hold that view, but it is complemented by some new data, which suggests a more complex and richer environment. 

Think of Bitcoin. This is a very complex system. In essence it was a new self-organising currency. The foundation of Bitcoin, the blockchain, has been referred to as "The Trust Machine" and hailed as a development that may prove to be as important as the creation of double-entry book-keeping to the future of commerce. Here are two excellent articles on the subject Link and Link

That suggests something new could happen. My previous picture of a group of uninformed consumers building an insurance company was, and still is, a laughable proposition.

But the world isn't like that.

More likely: some informed people, probably from the risk and financial services sectors, could create a proposition backed up by a blockchain, which could then be subscribed to by individuals or companies.

In effect the technology could re-enable the efficient creation of syndicates or mutuals. It should be no surprise, given the pooling of risk required by insurance, and the fact that these structures have always had a significant role in the sector. The point is that the technology may reduce the cost and allow the spread across lumpy national borders. 


Obituary: Dr. Marius Barnard, Creator of Critical Illness Insurance

Marius Barnard died on the weekend aged 87. As creator of critical illness insurance, which is now the second most popular benefit quoted in the New Zealand market, this industry owes a lot to Dr. Barnard. The two obituaries below are excellent, albeit brief, footnotes to this great development. The Youtube video embedded below is well worth a look, and is suitable for use on your website and with clients. 

Money Marketing obituary. Link.

Wikipedia entry. Link


The Transit of Venus

A break from financial services for a minute to highlight an important astronomical event: the transit of Venus. I was darned unhappy to leave Auckland Airport this morning by car instead of flying down to Christchurch. However, that has meant that I have been able to watch an event that Captain Cook travelled around the globe to witness - the transit of Venus. Wearing the special specs procured for the purpose from Auckland's Planetarium, of course, I have been taking a look.

About 15 minutes ago Venus, despite having a diameter of a little over 12,000 kilometres, was the merest hint of a dent in the Sun's edge between the positions of about 5pm and 6pm - as I write (11am in New Zealand) it is a definite black dot.

A couple of links:

The Wired Feed


Stardome's live feed

Science Museum

This afternoon we saw James Watt's actual workbench. The selection of exhibits on the history of the computing includes a number of calculators (Facit) and early computers (Pegasus) that my father has used. Sophia and Jacob were keen on the Launchpad exhibits (all child friendly physics workstations) but also liked regular polyhedrans and Moebius objects. A fabulous afternoon.

Mind Blowing: The Maths of War

When I can tick the categories "current affairs" and "science" and "history" then I know I have a very curious piece of news on my hands. As a (bad) student of mathmatics numbering a fair number of people more seriously educated in the subject in my family, and also with a fair number of analytical people in the readership I often share mathematical oddities (non-transitive dice, cluedo solvers, and the like) in this blog. It's broadly related, I suppose, to the underlying challenges of risk management, and the analysis of the industry that we continually undertake.

Now you can read up on the maths of war, and the curiously predictable nature of conflicts, their lethality, discovered by Lewis Fry Richardson and others that have picked up on his work more recently. Grab some coffee and give yourself ten minutes with this piece.