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The Not Unreasonable Podcast

Author: David Wright

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Hosted by David Wright, a former actuary and Chief Insurance Officer of Altway, a technology-focused health insurance agency. Not Unreasonable brings you interviews covering management, analytics, sales and economics interpreted through David's insurance and reinsurance background.

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60 Episodes
My guest for this episode is Otakar Hubshcmann, Head of Applied Data at Trans Re. The reinsurance industry is absolutely FULL of interesting data about insurance but there are a bazillion challenges of standardizing the data so that even expert reinsurance underwriters can make sense of it, much less machines and models.  This is Otakar's world! In the context of machine learning his is a modest objective, as he puts it:"The idea that you could have a machine come in or set of algorithms or whatever, take over from someone that's been in the industry with a learn domain expertise and a set of heuristics that are sort of proven over time, that just is not going to happen maybe ever ".But this is reality, folks. Most practical business problems really are beyond the frontier of what AI can meaningfully take over. All the more reason for companies to dig into the domain in house to figure out where the strategic gold is buried. 
My guests for this episode are from Root Insurance: Matt Bonakdarpour, VP of Data Science, Alex Carges, Chief Actuary and Isaac Espinoza, who leads Root's reinsurance efforts. This episode covers everything that I, at least, have been burning to ask some people deeply steeped in the data science of auto rating. Does territory really matter? Does technology really matter? Actuaries vs Data Scientists? Do such distinctions matter in the limit? Listen in for more!
My guest for this episode is Alex Lazarow, VC with Cathay Innovation and author of OUT-INNOVATE How Global Entrepreneurs–from Delhi to Detroit–Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley. In this show we discuss:liberation of constraintswhether this is all survivorship bias (in either direction!)How innovation hubs might compete with one anotherHow the Silicon Valley model can be both wrong and rightHow frontier cultures can contribute or take away from startup successHow community minded entrepreneurs can beAnd more!Alex was a fantastic guest and like all of my most enjoyable interviews I was delighted to be surprised a few times by Alex's insights as he challenged me to learn even beyond my preparation for the conversation. Bravo, Alex!sign up for my newsletter at
My guest for this episode is Mary Hirschfeld, Associate Professor of Economics & Theology at Villanova University. Mary has a PhD in Economics from Harvard University and a PhD in Theology from Notre Dame. Her book, Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy, is the book we as a society need someone with that background to write. We talk about what an alternative universe of economics might look like if designed by the famed Catholic Theologian. The cheap reading of her book can sound just like another bunch of self-help moralizing about us needing to consume less and live better. In our conversation I even challenge her a bit and say this isn't particularly newsworthy, so why write the book? Mary's mission is deeper, though, she's out there to give us some new, more effective intellectual arguments for *why* our lives should be lived better. Even though we may already be looking for more fulfilling pursuits than the old rat race there is a surprising lack of intellectual underpinnings to this set of ideas, especially the economics of these ideas. Mary Hirschfeld to the rescue. Let me know how you think she does!This show is part of an on-again / off-again series I'm recording about the philosophical and moral foundations of economics. See my episodes with Tyler Cowen on Stubborn Attachments and Agnes Callard on What Philosophy Feels Like!
Ken Brandt is the co-President of Global Underwriting at Trans Re and in this episode, recorded on June 3, 2020, we're talking COVID-19. In this episode we cover: What are good and bad outcomes for the (re)insurance market, (they're surprisingly similar!)How the insurance industry might get commandeered by the government to satisfy social aimsKen's observations on working remotely for the past 20 yearsWhat do we lose as a face to face industry with remote work?How pandemics are insurable and more!See show notes at you enjoyed this episode you'll probably also like other shows with reinsurance executives: Joe Taranto, Dinos Iordanou, Paul Ingrey, Mike Sapnar (Ken's boss!) and Bart Hedges
My guest for this episode is Jennifer Brady, Executive director of Oasis, a non-profit helping women, teens and children rise out of poverty in the greater Paterson, NJ, area, one of the poorest communities in New Jersey. We cover how the lockdown is leading to record-breaking demand for meal support from Oasis, how much more vulnerable this population is to disease, both because of their physical circumstances and because, believe it or not, it is only one among many life threatening things to worry about, what the political implications might be if COVID-19 becomes a disease of the poor and, of course, what we can all do to notes at 
Michael Tanzer is a portfolio manager at a hedge fund called Callaway Capital and author of a newsletter I read each week call Stuff to Read Over The Weekend (STROTW). Michael asked me if we could hop on a call and talk about COVID and I thought I might try just putting this out as a podcast as an experiment. I might do more of these with various people as I struggle to make sense of this crisis, partly to get my own mind off the concerns I have for myself and my family. Let me know what you think!We cover a lot of my own current thinking about how insurance responds to this crisis and also models for economic and market disruption and how COVID-19 fits into all this. It’s an insurance-style crisis hitting the border economy? You can see the video for this at 
My guest for the latest episode is Christy Ford Chapin, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Christy wrote *Ensuring America's Health: The Public Creation of the Corporate Health Care System*, which covers in enormous detail the historical origins of the US Health Insurance system. The central thesis of the book is that the American Medical Association was the linchpin player in warding off alternative payment systems for healthcare in the US. It's a fascinating idea and also serves as an excellent excuse to tour the origins of our system today. We cover much more including how hard it is to categorize the AMA's political stance in today's language, the variety of alternative systems in the early 20th century, how fraternal associations were the original insurers, whether the political diversity of the US was really to blame, whether Medicare would have been passed if JFK hadn't been assassinated and when the first worries about the cost of healthcare started to emerge.See show notes and more at
My guest for this episode is Monica Mason, head of catastrophe analytics as Trans Re. Catastrophe modeling is an analytical field of insurance concerned with predicting the cost of all kinds of natural disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, etc.  We go very deep into the nuances of catastrophe modeling and touch on a few universal truths for complicated risk-taking businesses like reinsurance:- How reliant should you be on external vendors for IP that could save or destroy your organization?- What are the most valuable parts of these complex systems?- How well do duopolists respond to customer needs?This interview is one of a series of talks I recorded with reinsurance professionals at Trans Re after my initial show Trans’ CEO Mike Sapnar. I get really deep into reinsurance topics with black belts in various sub-domains: catastrophe modeling, reinsurance claims, medical malpractice, reinsurance underwriting and reinsurance finance. This is not an intro course, folks, more like a post-doctoral fellowship. Podcasting is a fantastic medium to sink your teeth into the topics insiders themselves struggle with every day on the job and I couldn’t be more proud to celebrate the intellectual depth and sophistication of reinsurance with you all. See more at
My guest for this episode is Ty Sagalow one of the founding members of the Lemonade Insurance Group. Ty has held various underwriting and product development position at AIG over his 25 year career there and served as Chief Innovation officer at Zurich North America and Tower Group before joining Lemonade as its first Chief Insurance Officer.Ty wrote a book about his Lemonade experience called the "Making of Lemonade" which is the topic of the interview!We cover all kinds of ground in the conversation (innovation, starting a company, what were some innovation failures in Ty's career) but I didn't take long to get to the heart of the matter. The thing that distinguishes many tech startups of course is that their technology is so great. What is that like? Listen to the episode to find out and check out for more!
Tyler Cowen on Big Business

Tyler Cowen on Big Business


Tyler Cowen, professor of economics, blogger at, columnist for Bloomberg, host of Conversations with Tyler and author of numerous books returns to the Not Unreasonable Podcast to talk about his latest book, Big Business: a Love Letter to An American Anti-Hero. All too rarely do you get a tour of how incredibly strong the evidence is that everyday truths are what they are: big business actually exists for a reason because it mostly does exactly what we need: provide goods and services at affordable prices with reasonably good service. What's more is that big business is the source of all kinds of benefits to America and to human society generally. It's even better than you think! In the show we cover:- where businesses fit into the social intuition of the human mind- similarities between how we treat famous people and big business and what another of Tyler's books, *What Price Fame* can teach us about big business- What is good management and what effects does management have on employees?- How the book is an American book and how it is NOT a Chinese book- Crony capitalism doesn't exist here, but where might it exist in the world?- Wall Street and Financial Dark Matter- How Tyler views the firmAll this and much more! See show notes at
This episode is about how to build an organization that itself builds great products, especially great software products. I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say that this is the most important and under appreciated topic in the world today. It will some day be impossible for a company to thrive without these skills and we as a society are still figuring out how to organize human enterprises into productive software-making machines. It does NOT come naturally and I believe Marc Andreessen when he says that software will eat the world. That means that if your organization doesn't learn how to produce great software it, too, will be eaten and you along with it. Melissa Perri lives at the cutting edge of software process design and runs a consultancy devoted to building great product leaders. This of course applies to non-software products but the day is approaching when there is no such thing as a non-software product. Listen to this episode and continue on your journey to being a better producer of software, either as a coder or as an enabler of the programmers that build the products your company sells!Thanks for listening! Show notes at
My guest for this episode is Alex Tabarrok, the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and Professor of Economics at George Mason University, blogger at, co-founder of Marginal Revolution University and co-author with Eric Helland of "Why Are The Prices So Damn High?" which is short, free book and which we discuss on the show.Alex has written many other books and papers and there is a theme of thinking about innovation throughout his work. Several years ago he wrote a book on the topic called "Launching the Innovation Renaissance" which we also touch on as well as how the era of a country's birth affects its institutional makeup, how national rivalries can generate positive externalities (pop quiz: what was NASA's budget as a % of US GDP at its peak?), whether and why there has been a decline in innovation (and what's the difference between innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth?), where we might look for a model of education reform and how we might get there (what would a hollywood-style investment in education reform look like?) including Alex's own observations in launching his own education platform (marginal revolution university!), and much more!See more at Thanks for listening!
My guest for this episode is Matt Moore, SVP of the Highway Loss Data Institute. At HLDI Matt manages the research function for HLDI's massive insurance and automobile dataset. In this episode we leap to the cutting edge of AI in automobiles and learn about how well some key safety features perform, such as:Front Automatic Emergency BrakesCurve-adaptive headlights (Big surprise!)Lane departure warning systemsBlind spot warning systemsParking sensorsRear camerasRear automatic emergency brakeIn addition to rattling through those features and how effective they are we touch on all sorts of related topics: what the different levels of AI are, how safe the roads can get, the mix of hardware and software in modern vehicle safety systems and much, much more!See show notes and more more at
My guest for this episode is Dinos Iordanou, former Chairman and CEO of Arch, which he co-founded as Arch in 2001 and led from 2003 until retiring last year. In this incredible episode we cover: Dinos' homeland of Cyprus (who is his favorite Cypriot? Who is the best Cypriot soccer player of all time? Where did a poor, young Dinos vacation and why?)'Crappy' jobs (and why Dinos loved them all), What quality Hank Greenberg and Warren Buffett share (Dinos worked with both!)What lessons Dinos learned from Warren BuffetThe power of culture to transform firmsPhilotimo, what it is and why it matters for a leaderAn amazing show and my deep appreciation of Dinos for his time. See for more!
My guests for this episode are Don Mango Global Head of Actuarial Pricing and Modeling at Everest Insurance, Two-term Casualty Actuarial Society Board Member and former CAS Vice President of Research and Development and Matt Mosher, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of A.M. Best Rating Services, responsible for rating operations globally.For these heavyweight guests we tackle a heavyweight issue: are actuaries innovating enough? How would we innovate more?We discuss:whether innovation is greater in pricing or reserving, whether risk classification is the seat of all innovation, how AM Best sees its role in innovation, the impact of driverless cars on insurance innovation (the answer might surprise you!), what happened in the UK? how should the formal Standards of Practice influence the identity of actuaries and innovation in the field. And much more!See episode details and links at
My guest for this episode is Mike Sapnar, CEO of Trans Re, a 4.5 bn premium reinsurer based in New York City. For many in my business Mike needs no introduction: we cover what the differences are between insurance and reinsurance, what makes for good negotiators and what Mike learned going through an agonizing year or so while his company was in the spotlight, subject to friendly and hostile takeovers alike a few years back. I've never been anywhere near the pilot's seat during an all-or-nothing M&A roller coaster and Mike takes us through what he learned in those harrowing few months. David Wright:       00:58:09       Tell me something you learned.Mike Sapnar:        00:58:10       So, um, first of all, I learned there are no mergers of equals. It doesn't exist in Wall Street parlance. There's always a buyer and a seller.David Wright:       00:58:19       Yup.Mike Sapnar:        00:58:20       And even though we were a bigger company, we were getting a premium. We were doing a book for book swap, but we were getting a well let's come back to that. We were getting, it was a book for a book deal. We were going to have seven of the nine top positions, um, reinsurance was going to be a dominant part of the portfolio. And we felt we weren't the seller at the end of the day. Cause we were, we were the bigger company.David Wright:       00:58:56       This is the Allied World transaction.Mike Sapnar:        00:58:57       Yes. Yep. We were a bigger company. The issue was is we were getting a bigger premium in the book for book value based on the market price. And so Wall Street kind of said, well Transatlantic is the seller, they're getting the bigger premium. Is that a big enough premium? Is there something else out there? Hmm.David Wright:       00:59:12       What does it matter?Mike Sapnar:        00:59:14       Why does that matter if you're the, if you're the seller?Listen for more! If you enjoy the show, see more of my stuff at!
Martin Gurri is a former CIA analyst whose book, the Revolt of the Republic, has put together the best explanation I’ve heard yet for how and why social media has changed politics everywhere in the world. His theory links together the color revolutions, Brexit and *both* the Trump and Obama presidencies. To me most political discourse is unproductive shouting, which I loathe and Martin can explain both why the discourse looks that way and why I loathe it! The core insight came from Martin’s career analyzing media reports around the world and he noticed the decline of the primacy of 'papers of record'. This coincided with big changes in political discourse everywhere.In this interview we compare various social media platforms, discuss what the public really wants and how we might get out of this mess. Martin has the unique distinction of recognizing the commonalities between Obama and Trump and his theory ties together movements on the left and the right. Martin stands out as a dispassionate and insightful observer of current events and I've learned an awful lot studying his work.Thanks for listening!If you enjoy the show, see more of my stuff at!
This episode is an update from last year's check in with Judah Cohen, Director of Seasonal Forecasting at AER, a Verisk Company and a Research Affiliate at MIT. We talk about the winter of 2019 including the incredible cold snap that hit the continental US, other anomalous weather patterns (very cold arctic!) and how all these systems interact. Enjoy another ultimate weather nerd-out with us!Are you an actuary? Someone you know? Check out the Not Unprofessional Project, for the price of a CAS webinar you get unlimited access to content dedicated to Continuing Education Credits for Actuaries, especially Professionalism credits. CE On Your Commute!Subscribe to the Not Unreasonable Podcast in iTunes, stitcher, or by rss feed. Sign up for the mailing list at See older show notes at
My guests for this episode are Ted Tafaro, Founder and CEO of Exceptional Risk Advisors and his partner Chris Lack. Exceptional Risk Advisors writes insurance policies covering complex human capital risks for highly successful individuals such as Entertainers, Athletes, Corporate Executives and other Professionals. My opening question is about what Trevor Lawrence should do. Do they suggest any changes to his lifestyle? Which sports are the most dangerous and is that the same as the most expensive insurance policies? We touch on what an athlete's life is like from an insurance perspective, what is with those weird celebrity insurance coverages (legs, hands and butt!). Who buys the insurance for musicians and entertainers? What kind of celebrities make the best insureds? Tune in for all this and more!Are you an actuary? Someone you know? Check out the Not Unprofessional Project, for the price of a CAS webinar you get unlimited access to content dedicated to Continuing Education Credits for Actuaries, especially Professionalism credits. CE On Your Commute!Subscribe to the Not Unreasonable Podcast in iTunes, stitcher, or by rss feed. Sign up for the mailing list at See older show notes at
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