Applying Systems Engineering Methods to Risk Management and Insurance Planning

IntroductionAs an Expert Systems Engineering Professional (ESEP) with the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) who has spent over three decades working on complex engineering projects, from satellite systems, the International Space Station (ISS), ground stations, telecommunications and information technology systems, I have recently considered how systems engineering techniques that lead to successful systems development (as well as the absence of effective SE processes that lead to project failures) may be applied in an entirely different domain: risk management and insurance planning (RMIP). This article will address the generic systems engineering process, and then discuss how this can be applied when developing complex insurance plans to mitigate risk. It will be worth looking at a my previously published articles that address the specifics of buy-sell agreements, business overhead insurance, and cash value insurance vs. term insurance for additional background on product complexities that can easily occur during the planning and implementation process. The goal of this article is not to provide an exhaustive dissertation on systems engineering; rather, it’s simply designed to give the reader a sufficient, high-level understanding of the generic process, and how it can be applied to developing risk management and insurance plans.What is Systems Engineering?INCOSE defines systems engineering as “an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem.” The term “system” is important here: systems engineers typically define systems as an interactive collection of different elements that provide a capability that the individual elements alone cannot provide. The parts not only include the physical system, but also the people that use the system, the beneficiaries of the system (these can be different, for example a passenger aircraft is used by pilots and benefits the passengers), policies, documentation, and anything else needed to produce and operate the system.A consensus approach of the INCOSE Fellows provides the following iterative approach to systems engineering that goes by the acronym SIMILAR. The functions that comprise the acronym are: State, Investigate, Model, Integrate, Launch, Assess and Re-evaluate. I briefly define each one in the next section, and provide examples of how this approach is very useful in developing a successful RMIP system for clients.What is SIMILAR and How Can It Be Applied to RMIP?As listed in the previous paragraph, SIMILAR is an acronym for State, Investigate, Model, Integrate, Launch, Assess and Re-evaluate. Let’s define each one and see how we can apply this to RMIP.State: This refers to “state the problem.” In an engineering environment, we are looking for a technical solution to a systems problem, in other words, a pain point. In RMIP, we must do exactly the same thing. This problem could be a simple as “provide an estate to a decedent’s survivors,” a basic life insurance problem, to something more complex, as, provide a mechanism for protecting the financial interests of business partners in the event of the premature death of one of them to protect a business’ viability in the event the primary income generator for the business, such as an independent physician or dentist, is disabled.Investigate: This refers to “investigate alternatives.” Systems engineers will provide different solution alternatives that attempt to optimize the design based on cost, schedule, risk, and complexity. This same process is used at looking at RMIP alternatives: For example, with life insurance, we can show term products; cash value products, and hybrid solutions, as well as rider alternatives. We can look at disability products in terms of benefits vs. cost; different products form different companies, and riders.Model: Modeling refers to “model the system.” In the context of a system, modeling will refer to diagrams of different alternatives, computer simulations, mathematical modeling, and workflow diagrams, as examples. We can also apply modeling techniques to the RMIP problem: each alternative comes with a model that shows how each insurance solution will work, the different components of the solution, costs, timeframes, rates of return, and the risk of doing nothing, or what I refer to as the null solution. For example, with buy-sell agreements, we can model a cross-purchase agreement and stock redemption agreement as alternative solutions tailored to a specific company’s circumstances.Integrate: In systems engineering, many, if not all systems, are really “systems of systems.” That is, the components of the system each have an engineering solution, and then those components must be integrated to provide a capability (or capabilities) that the individual systems alone cannot provide. With RMIP, it is necessary to integrate the risk management solution into an entire financial system for the client that accounts for existing insurance, investments and savings, annuities, and hybridization of insurance products. By doing this, we can create a solution that each product alone cannot provide at the best possible cost, complexity, and risk constraints desired by the client.Launch: This is the process of implementing the desired solution. With a system, we select the best solution based on the client’s requirements and constraints, build the system, validate it, deliver it, and operating it. This is an iterative process, and the system is likely to evolve as the end users better understand it and make recommendations, processes are updated, technology evolves, and market conditions change. Similarly, the RMIP solution is constructed, validated with the client the desired requirements are met, and, finally, implemented.Assess: Assessment is defining and collecting performance metrics. With a system, these may include system performance (speed, accuracy), system problems or trouble tickets, user satisfaction, increased output, or anything else important to the organization. In engineering, it is generally assumed that if you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. With RMIP, we can measure product performance, especially with cash value insurance products, such as internal rates of return, costs, and dividends. What may be harder to measure is the peace-of-mind clients receive by mitigating financial risk to themselves, their families, and their businesses. This may boil down to a simple thing like, “Do you sleep better not worrying about a financial catastrophe?” This is a qualitative rather quantitative metric, but very useful in determining if the insurance solution is meeting a client’s requirements.Re-evaluate: Re-evaluation is building feedback mechanisms from the assessments to modify the system to changing needs. INCOSE posits that this may be the most important function in the systems engineering process. With RMIP, I accomplish this by maintaining a regular and open line of communication with clients to assess changing circumstances that may offer new risk mitigation solutions, or upgrade the solutions already in place. The feedback look takes you back to the beginning of the SIMILAR process, which is iterated as part of a continuous improvement program.ConclusionsSystems engineering is well suited for solving risk management and insurance planning problems for clients. All of the mechanisms and processes used to develop complex engineering solutions, whether it developing and software solution for a business to improve operations and gain an edge over the competition, to designing and building spacecraft to explore the planets or carry people into space, can be used to design optimal insurance solutions for clients that eliminate pain points in their lives and businesses. In this article, I presented an accepted systems engineering approach used to craft systems and repurposed it for developing RMIP solutions for clients. If you’re in the insurance, or more broadly, financial services business, the SIMILAR approach can really help you craft the best solutions for your clients. If you’re a potential or existing client, using the approach in assessing you own needs will go a long way in helping you better articulate your pain points and requirements to give your planner or agent so he or she can develop an optimal risk mitigation solution for your needs.

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Resume References Can Make You Or Break You!

Excellent References are Important In these tough economic times, employers are seeking ways to cut their risks. Right now as a job applicant you represent a potential risk to them. They could hire you and spend time and money training you only to find out that you are either unable to do the job well or have a fatal character flaw that interferes with your job performance. An employer needs to know that you are who you say you are. An effective way to accomplish that is through utilizing your references.Consider this: You are one of two hundred people that are applying to an employer with one job opening. The employer has specified exactly the skills, experience, and education that they are looking for. They do not have time to interview all two hundred people, so they start to review who meets all the requirements needed to perform the job.Out of two hundred people, twenty of those people meet all the employers’ requirements of skill, experience, and education. Because you filled out your application well and submitted a resume targeting how you meet the specific skills and experience requirements of the job, you are one of the twenty in the pool of candidates being considered. You have the same types of skills, experience, and education as the other 19 candidates.Now that the employer has narrowed down the pool to 20 people, they start the interview process. You interview well, have sent a thank you note for the interview, and have been asked to return for a second interview. The employer has narrowed the pool of candidates down to 4 people; 3 other people are coming in for a second interview as well. What is going to set you apart from the other 3 people?The answer is your excellent references! So choose well who you use for a reference; that person can make or break your job search efforts! For more information on resume references, check out my website listed below!

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Student Loans With Bad Credit: Options to Consider Before Applying

College life is not the same as the image presented in movies. The cliché has it that the college experience is all parties, midday wake-up calls and missed tutorials. But the truth is that students spend countless hours worrying over whether their application for a student loan with bad credit will be approved.For many students, financial woes play a bigger part in everyday life at university than studies, since it is only by securing loan approval that they can actually pay the school and graduate to start on their career.But how can a student loan be secured in the first place? And is bad credit the killer of applications that we are led to believe? There is a variety of financial options to choose from, but there are just as many factors that should be considered before submitting an application.Loan Options to Choose FromTraditional lenders are not the only source of student loans with bad credit. In fact, with public and private lending options to choose from, funding specifically to finance a college degree is quite accessible. The advantages and disadvantages of a loan depends on which lender granted it.For example, a public lender usually means the federal government, from which student loans are available at the lowest interest rates. Government is happy enough to foot the bill for college-goers because of their importance to the future of the local and national economies. However, securing loan approval provides key advantages to the borrower too.On the other hand, student loans secured from private lenders have terms that vary quite dramatically, principally because each lender sets their conditions. Approval rates despite poor credit are quite high though, mainly due to the fact that many lenders view such loans as special financial packages.Publicly Sourced LoansArguably, the best source of college funds is through public loans. This is because they are designed to help students to meet monthly obligations or to handle financial difficulties. So, when seeking student loans with bad credit, the federal lender is not interested in the credit score at all. Also, low fixed interest rates are typically charged, and usually repayment schedules are on hold until after graduation.There are several loan programs available, but the two most common are the Stafford Loan and the Perkins Loan programs. Stafford loans are issued to students coming straight from high school, and effectively subsidize their tuition fees. Securing loan approval is not difficult if the applicant qualifies.The Perkins program, however, is designed to aid students that already find themselves in a tight financial situation. These student loans can be used to cover living expenses, and are not confined to tuition and college fees, as the Stafford loan is. Supply is limited so early application is generally advised.Privately Sourced LoansLoans from private lenders are more expensive than public or federal loans. This comes down to the fact that higher rates of interest are charged. When, applying for a student loan with poor credit, the terms will probably make it a bigger financial drain than needs be. However, a private loan is a sound option when public loans do not offer enough.It is worth noting, however, that most private lenders provide a period of grace that usually extends to graduation, before any repayments need to be made. The specific terms of this kind of concession is important to know, then securing loan approval can be looked forward to.What is more, when considering application for student loans, most private lenders will also ignore the credit score too.

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