Sunday, July 9, 2023

Maverick vs Maverick: Round 1

Dominic Lee, aka The Maverick Actuary sort of dared me to binge stream his interview series. Well, that’s how I took it anyway. It wasn’t an official challenge but when he "encourages" me to check out his stuff,  I hear "I bet you won't" and I’m not one to back down from an invitation. 

Also, over the 4th of July I enjoyed watching the movies Top Gun and Maverick back to back. Having those flicks fresh in my mind has inspired me to put the Mavericks Head to Head. Let’s “fly right into the Danger Zone!” And see how Dom stacks up against Tom.

Opening Credits:

Overall, Dominic has done a wonderful job of curating the guests and developing a key theme appropriate for each episode. He balances moving the interviews along/getting to core questions while still allowing space for real reactions to his guests replies. Not only that, but each episode is definitely serving the Maverick Actuary mission: "To maximize the impact and value of quant professionals on a global scale."

Similarly, in the Top Gun movies, reputation is a big deal for Pete Mitchell whose call sign is Maverick. While some may argue he’s dangerous or reckless, no one would say he isn’t BOLD.

Part 1: Risky Business (Yes I know I am mixing up Cruise flicks)

To start, I began at Episode 15 with Tom Schneider a former CRO of Ford Credit. What was really interesting here was to find out about the Model Multiverse that a company like Ford Credit deals with. From credit to behavior to recovery, split by customer type, models saturate the business. Schneider offer insights on going from regression models with dozens of parameters to tens of thousands of data points. 

It was encouraging and interesting to hear the level of overlap on model governance from a  field that isn’t typically actuarial. Two key takeaways: 

  1. Think about risk with every decision. 
  2. Think about risk upsides.

Arguably, risk is a huge theme for any Maverick. Perhaps one of the most iconic scenes from Top Gun that gives a nod to taking risks is when Maverick decides to serenade a woman at the bar, who is later revealed to be one of his instructors. She asks him how many times he tried this maneuver:

No, actually, we've only done this, twice.

Oh, how'd you do?

Crashed and burned on the first one.
It wasn't pretty.

-And second?
-I don't know. I'll tell you tomorrow.

But it's looking good so far.

Part 2: Learning to Fly in a Vanilla Sky

In Episode 22, Dominic interviews actuarial blogging powerhouse Mary Pat Campbell. I’ve been a MPC for a long time so I was curious to see where this conversation would go. 

Happily, Mary shared stories about how her writing ended up creating more opportunities for her. I completely agree with her take that to make writing stand out it is important to have something to say

I also appreciated the way she highlighted how a piece of writing is different from a conversation and the importance of honing the craft of condensing to make a point. 

One thing that I have to revisit is the idea of using all channels to communicate. I have my blog, Linked In and Twitter. I will have to consider how to expand my reach in a way that makes sense for me with more video and image focused platforms like YouTube and Instagram. 

The final fun part for me, that I have in common with Mary, is the desire to push the limits of what can be done in a professional piece. She cited her work blending Interest Rates and Sumo

In the most recent health conference I was able to pull off a tasting menu and a game show in different sessions. 

In Episode 42 Jawwad Farid begins with a classic actuarial trope, delineating a marketing actuary based on the fact that they are looking at others shoes. 

This episode compliments Mary Pat Campbell's episode very nicely. Farid reiterates the importance of succinct communication, highlighting Hemingway's infamous six word story. 

The art of simplicity is very tough and one I try to hone through writing short fiction contests and build engagement through blogs and social media posts. 

Farid also emphasized the importance of knowing your audience and meeting their expectations. Something I want to get more from this is the idea Farid introduced as the Zen of models. 

In both Top gun movies, aspiring pilots improve by putting their skills against established pros. 

And the only way to get better is to fly. In the course of proving themselves, the pilots don’t always succeed. Yet by heeding instruction and shaping it to their own styles, eventually they find success. Again, a scene from Top Gun when the pilots first enter the classroom.


You are the top one percent
of all naval aviators.

The elite.

The best of the best.

We'll make you better.

Part 3: Mission Impossible?

My fourth listen was Episode 46 Olympic Gold Medalist Tyler Clarly

The episode reminded me a lot of the very first piece I wrote for the Actuary of the Future Section called The Athletic Actuary. I really enjoyed the conversation about how to define success and winning and that in order to achieve something. There needs to be a plan and a lot of work to execute it. And as an advocate for basic protections, it was wonderful to hear mention of the core insurances, LTC, life and DI. 

Finally, I listened to Episode 50 featuring Adi Kaimowitz, CEO at Virtual Actuary. Really fun stuff and I grew my vocabulary. 

  • New Age Entrepreneurship  = making money from month one.  
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution  = accessible tech
  • Disruption = something that comes from experienced people not new twenty something’s 
  • Mega gig economy=  joining gig participants, not employees to allow them to compete as a group.

In the Top Gun movies, situations can look dire and things seem impossible. Yet, it is exactly in these impossible moments when the training kicks in and the risk taking can pay off. A lot can happen with boldness, preparation, and imagination.

Final Credits

Following the binge, I am a convert! Each episode has given me a new idea and something to do, and I love content that not just teaches me something but motivates me to act. By the end of the year, I’ll finish watching the remaining episodes, catching new ones as they come up.

However, to be touch critical, Dominic has his work cut out for him to match Tom Cruise. He’s already got charm and a magnetic smile, I’ll give him that. But still missing - token theme music (I’m happy to help), more stunts (do the next interview hanging upside down from a helicopter), and more smoldering stares. While you work on that, I’ll try to see if Mr. Cruise is willing to take an actuarial exam or two!

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