Monday, 28 April 2008

The Fantods of Risk: Essays on Risk Management

The Fantods of Risk: Essays on Risk Management
By H.Felix Kloman, published by Xlibris. Available from or Amazon for $20

Roger Miller,a previous Executive Director of AIRMIC and no slouch with the apposite phrase, once described Felix Kloman to me as having a“luminous mind”.

The range and reading of that mind are on display in Kloman’s latest collection of essays on risk management,esoterically entitled “the Fantods of Risk”. Fantods are either a state of extreme nervousness(the fidgets) or a sudden outpouring of rage ( a fit).

Kloman ,I guess, is more likely to take to his keyboard in a fit ,one perhaps brought on by extreme nervousness as he contemplates the risks facing us and our general incomprehension. He has the seriousness of an Old Testament Prophet, laying down the law ( he likes lists),citing other scriptures including the saintly Peter Bernstein and the blessed John Adams, both known to members for their presentations at the AIRMIC Conference. Kloman is remarkable amongst the IRM membership for being struck dumb when giving their Lecture, an event which he describes in the book, graciously thanking the crisis management of the IRM and the hosts Willis.

He has read very widely and across many disciplines. He is one of the few writers on Risk Management from an insurance background who has become an active member of GARP, the Global Association of Risk Professionals, the financial risk managers who have recently been weighed in the balances and found wanting in their knowledge of risk. He chastises the improvident and the impertinent- including AIRMIC on two occasions in this book for the Partnership agreements which Kloman considers an outrageous conflict of interest – I disagree with him, but I can see why he might get a touch of the fantods when considering the situation from Maine or Connecticut, where he is in residence.

We need more prophets like Kloman, more such writers and thinkers ( not always the same thing of course) and his essays are always illuminating, as Roger said he found the man. They are full of wonderful insights, irritations, the odd haiku, a dash of Monty Python and serious analysis . He makes the study of risk an essential and central activity ,not some obscure calling. He has striven mightily to have the word “risk” accepted as having an upside as well as a downside. It makes you realise that if you look hard enough, within a prophet you may often find a poet.


Sunday, 20 April 2008

Traders,Testosterone and Risk

Research by Dr Coates and Dr Herbert at Cambridge,reported in April 19th Economist, shows that on the days when traders' testosterone levels are high they are more successful. It is not that testosterone rises because they are successful, but that the higher levels are followed by success.

On the other hand when it came to stress, uncertainty was a much bigger driver than failure.

As you might imagine we are only talking male traders here.

There is separate evidence, not in the Economist article, from Spanish scientists, Martinez-Sanchis,Aragon and Salvador of an interaction between testosterone and cocaine on the central nervous system. What is unclear is whether traders could gain success by enhanced testosterone levels due to cocaine intake. The danger is that those desperate for success some will consider this link a given. It is not.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

A 13 year old deserves respect - be very afraid

You may have missed this. It is a remarkable addition to the library of poorly calculated statistics. Great story - look on 13 year olds with more respect . I found this on the Straits Times Site:

April 16, 2008

German boy, 13, corrects Nasa's asteroid figures
BERLIN - A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected Nasa's estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with Earth, a German newspaper reported on Tuesday, after spotting the boffins had miscalculated.
Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.
Nasa had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.
The schoolboy took into consideration the risk of Apophis running into one or more of the 40,000 satellites orbiting Earth during its path close to the planet on April 13 2029.
Those satellites travel at 3.07km a second, at up to 35,880km above earth - and the Apophis asteroid will pass by earth at a distance of 32,500km.
If the asteroid strikes a satellite in 2029, that will change its trajectory making it hit earth on its next orbit in 2036.
Both Nasa and Nico agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320m wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.
The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.
The 13-year old made his discovery as part of a regional science competition for which he submitted a project entitled: Apophis - The Killer Astroid.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

"Not without risk"

William Shakespeare's family motto " Not without Right" was part of his coat of arms which caused some controversy when it was granted on the grounds that an actor could not be a gentleman.

Ben Jonson seemed to think so too and one of his more scabrous characters in a play was a newly minted gentleman whose coat of arms was a boar's head with the hilarious motto " Not without mustard."

But " Not without right" is a cagey, modest motto , a motto for dangerous times. You only have to go to Tower Hill in London and look at the memorial plaques surrounding the old scaffold's location - Thomas More ,Thomas Cromwell, Archbishop Laud and many others- to remember just how precarious life was at court and that the higher you rose the greater the downside risk.

As Sir Walter Raleigh is supposed to have etched with his signet ring on a glass pane

"Fane would I climb,
Yet fear I to fall "

Only to have Queen Elizabeth Ist add her comment underneath to complete the poem

"If thy heart fails thee
Climb then not at all."

Perhaps the Elizabethans' motto should have been " Not without risk" or should we claim it for ourselves?

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Accidents and Options

Imagine you are the owner of a company and you have an important guest on your premises. Naturally you supervise all the arrangements to ensure that everything is managed well and any risks to your guest are controlled with great care.

However, despite all your best efforts and those of your staff a terrible accident befalls the guest. You then discover that one of your staff was not fit for duty and his errors and your decisions have contributed to the accident.

Do you

1.accept that the fault lies with the decisions made by you and the culture of the company which you have set up and recognise that the guest's family may believe you culpably negligent and the authorites think that there is a corporate manslaughter case to answer with a very clear guiding mind( you) identified?

2. claim it was someone else's fault and cover up any traces of the unsuitability of your staff for having care of the guest?

If you chose 1. you run the risk of being prosecuted and sent to gaol , paying out huge damages and possibly losing your licence to run the business if it is one where the general public are involved.

If you chose 2. you should vigorously pursue other parties as being the cause of the accident and you may, even though your claims might be conclusively proved to be false, get away with deflecting the criticism of your organisation and your decisions

The authorities should make sure that 2 is not an option, at present it seems it is.