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Tackling uncertainty

30 April 2020

Last month I noted the Covid-19 crisis is forcing us to be better communicators. To help those who want to write well, I recently shared my top tips gleaned from working as a journalist over the last 16 years. The pandemic has highlighted our attitudes to uncertainty and risk. This creates significant difficulties, even for those used to assessing hazards, such as pension schemes and asset managers. Actuaries have used their skills to provide assessments of the number of excess deaths as well as explaining how to slow down a disease which expands exponentially. One of unacknowledged dangers of the crisis could be the impact a sharp economic downturn has on the viability of many smaller defined benefit pension schemes, given the questionable credit worthiness of their company sponsors.

Tips for writing
We need to maintain and build relationships in a restrained environment. Writing effectively has never been so important. To help those wanting to improve their copy, I share why it’s important to ask yourself “So what?” before putting fingers to keyboard, how to use an elevator pitch and why ‘killing your children’ is a tough but necessary step.

Uncertainty, risk and control in the time of Covid-19
Pension schemes and asset managers are used to assessing the risks associated with investment. But even these professionals have been discombobulated by the ambiguity created by the current pandemic. In this post, I discuss the difference between uncertainty and risk and how experience and time helps us to turn a nebulous danger into rational risk assessment.

The hour of the actuary
Actuaries’ assessment of longevity and mortality is usually carried out in the backrooms of insurance companies and consultancy firms. The challenges posed by the pandemic plays well to these skills and a number have stepped forward to forecast and explain its impact. Stuart McDonald provides regular Twitter updates on the work Continuous Mortality Investigation has carried out to assess the number of excess deaths related to the virus. And Paul McGlone’s Linked-In posts help to explain how long we are likely to remain in lockdown if we want to achieve a major reduction in the number of daily deaths.

Are defined benefit schemes safe?
In 2018 I wrote about the fragility of defined benefit from any economic downturn caused by the UK leaving the European Union. At the time, I highlighted a report by XPS Pensions which said around a third of pension schemes could fail to pay their pensions in full. The risks of this happening are likely to be turbo-charged by the economic downturn caused by the current pandemic. This is a topic I’ll be investigating further.

Charlotte Moore - post author

Charlotte Moore has been a freelance journalist since 2006, with a solid technical understanding of a broad range of financial topics along with a previous incarnation as an investment analyst. Along with journalism, she has experience of producing written material for corporates and is seeking to expand this part of her business portfolio.