“Be fast. Have no regrets. You must be the first mover”.

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I recommend following @nicolamedical

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“Fast moving actuary” was once the title of a gossip column in Professional Pensions. It’s an intentional oxymoron, the actuary’s stock in trade is prudence – standing back.

But “with a pandemic you can never act too early” and while Germany benefits from a flatter curve, there is no reason for us not to follow their example and stay closed. The risk of a premature easement in the USA could mean that country exporting spreaders, at a time of global lockdown, American citizens travelling abroad will become pariahs.

Because denying that the Coronavirus can get you, as President Trump has done, has made America the last mover and what Trump is proposing isn’t progress, it’s regress.

Novation or innovation

The “bounce back” that we desire cannot be achieved by an act of will – by telling ourselves and others that you are bigger than the virus.

What Nicola has picked up on goes to the heart of the matter. To accept and embrace change – as Germany and a few others have done, means moving super-quick and having the courage to fail. This is innovation and is scary to try but needed in these circumstances. It gives first mover advantage

This is not what America did ; and “bounce back” for Americans may well be back to the horror it is currently experiencing. What the Trump administration wants to do is novate – replace America 1.0 with America 1.1, a new contract that looks much like the old contract, after the rude interruption of the World Health Organisation.

In my view Covid19 is a game changer which will require us to look again , demanding not just novation , but genuine innovation, we cannot go back for our future.

Herd immunisation only works with a vaccine

The social cost of herd immunisation appears to be one that the WhiteHouse is prepared to pay. But then you don’t pay for social costs if you haven’t got a social healthcare contract. What this looks like is a kind of herd immunisation where the society that pays is the mass of American citizens with no protection against the pandemic, the bet is that in a free market – the social elite can isolate and immunise themselves until the vaccine comes along.

Putting aside the obvious example of “no-one being safe from the virus”, Trump’s strategy depends on popular approval from the American heartlands. It may be a vicious way of draining the swamp but the kind of herd immunisation that looks likely to happen in America – means sacrificing the parts of society that Trump has no time for, for the preservation of the status quo in the parts that appreciate the President world view.

The vaccine – at least as a mass vaccine, is not just around the corner. What America’s proposed actions would be – would lead to deaths at the high end of his administration’s forecasts – if not higher.

Back to Britain

Clearly we do not have in place, much of what Germany has in place. We have not moved so fast and we are not testing as we should, nor do we have the masks and gowns and other protection we need.

But that shouldn’t stop us innovating and progressing. Some of my friends, a member of the House of Lords among them, see sense in getting Britain back to work by easing the lockdown. But I see a more innovative solution, I see Britain getting back to work by changing the way we work and accepting that we will not be able to spend our way out of recession by renovating the past.

In a world where we can – once again – socialise in proximity – then we can enjoy the freedom of travel, of eating and drinking and the pleasure of physical company in our workplaces.

But for now, we need to work hard at the new, innovate in the way we carry out our lives and find ways of being more productive, to pay for the recession that the pandemic is causing.

Be fast – have no regrets – you must be the first mover

I see a move amongst many of the people we work with, to embrace innovation, to be bold and make decisions quickly that will lead to change.

I also see organisations who are locking down , not physically, but in terms of their thinking. They remind me of Trumps’s answer – which is to return to a pre-Covid BAU as if there is no emergency.

The emergency is not going away till we get a vaccine, the vaccine won’t be hear till next year. Herd immunity happens at too great a cost of lives.

The reality is that we have to be fast – have no regrets and we must be the first movers!



Nicola Oliver

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in actuaries, age wage, coronavirus, pensions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Be fast. Have no regrets. You must be the first mover”.

  1. Dave C says:

    Mortality rate still being unknown means making sensible long-term policy is impossible.

    0.02% or 5%? It’s a vast range and makes an almost incomprehensible difference to what we might do.

    This could be the overall peak we’re flattening right now, and a vast amount of the population has been infected. It could be mostly very mild and we already have a good amount of herd immunity.

    Or it could be the start of years of ever smaller peaks as it slowly transmits through the population and kills far more.

    To panic and make policy on what you see right now might prove destructive to the economy.

    Protect the NHS. Protect the vulnerable.

    Neither of those is exclusive to locking everything down too much longer.

    The vulnerable can remain locked down for now.

    The world can keep spinning.

    • henry tapper says:

      That’s another view – one that’s based on evidence (which the Germans have lots of). But we don’t and so we don’t know who our vulnerable are. This is the great disadvantage that not being prepared puts us under. Right now we don’t have too many options but to stay in lock down- nor does America.

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