My first experience of public speaking was in late 2000. There was a conference on annuities and Gen Re put me forward to speak about annuity reinsurance. It was a pretty dull talk – most of the individual slides were stock slides and I wasn’t a good presenter back then.
Later, when I was at PwC, I went on a fantastic personal impact training course. The trainer was an out of work actor who used to be in Emmerdale and there were only two trainees on the course. I left filled with confidence and started looking for speaking opportunities that allowed me the flexibility to choose my own style and content.
That opportunity came in 2002. An extenal organisation was looking for a volunteer to organise speakers for a one-day conference on current issues in financial reporting. I put myself forward, was duly appointed and immediately engaged myself as the first speaker. The talk was an introduction to market consistent valuation, deflators and risk neutral valuation. I received higher feedback scores than all the other speakers for both content and style. And I’d invited some pretty good speakers.
Sometime around 2003-05 I spoke at a conference on completing the annual returns. This was aimed at both actuaries and accountants and was an annual event, often with the same speakers turning up year after year. My slot was on unit linked business. I quite enjoyed it as unit linked business appeared throughout the returns, so it was a great opportunity to show how all the forms fitted together. I spoke at this conference at least twice, but it may have been three times. Neil Dissanayake provided me with a great set of slides to use after I provided him with a spec of the talk.
I think it was at the Life Convention in 2003 where I copresented with the great John Hibbert on “Fair Values in Two Hours!” We had enough material to spread our talk out over two sessions. Our styles were quite similar, both of us wanting to keep things simple and to help people understand how market consistent valuation works. The presentations were well received.
In September 2004, the opportunity came up to speak at a seminar on the realistic valuation of life office liabilities after a PwC colleague had to pull out. His style was very different to mine and he’d agreed to talk about the relationship between fair values and realistic liabilities and about the volatility of profits. The presentation I came up with was “Market consistent profits are annoying”. I claimed that they were annoying because they were volatile, fuzzy and woolly. Volatility was in the remit – I talked here about the Greeks and how profits could be broken down into the separate impacts of mismatching each of them. Fuzziness was an excuse to talk about confidence intervals and variance reduction techniques – one of my pet subjects. Woolliness was about the subjectiveness within the numbers that results from parameters like correlations and property volatility not being observable in the markets – this was as close as I could get to the fair vs realistic question in the remit.
At the Life Convention in 2004, I gave a talk on how to audit/test the output from a market consistent economic scenario generator. Some of the tests have since become standard industry practice.
Then came the Life Convention in 2005. I’d already developed a presentation style that centred around being able to explain technical matters in a way that people understood, but was wanting to step outside my comfort zone and to try something radically different. What I came up with was “What can actuaries learn from Star Trek?” It was a big risk. It could have bombed. As it turned out, I received higher feedback scores than all the other speakers at the conference not just for style but also for content. I still have the slides for this presentation and am happy to repeat it.
For the Life Convention in 2006, I followed up with “Behavioural finance: lessons from fantasy football and internet poker”. For the second year running, I scored the highest feedback at the conference for both content and style. Again, I’m open to repeating this talk, and have done so at CASS and at First Actuarial in 2012.
For the Life Convention in 2007, I put forward what was intended to be the final part of a trilogy: “What can actuaries learn from the Amazing Spider-Man?” The organising committee for the conference rejected the talk, but I did get the opportunity to present it at the Younger Members Convention that same year. Feedback for this talk was middling. I am prepared to repeat the talk but the previous two are better.
Somewhere around 2006 I spoke at the Actuarial Teachers and Researchers Conference at Canterbury. My remit was to talk about a current issue and to discuss what role that the academic community could have in future developments. I put together a talk on economic scenario generators, contrasting real world and market consistent ESGs.
At the Life Convention in 2014 I copresented with Andrew Ruddle on “The role of the actuary at the FCA”. That talk was pretty conventional.