Kelvin Chamunorwa seeks readers views on current issues and social convention at this time of year
When is it appropriate to stop wishing others a happy new year? Recently faced with that dilemma myself, I did some limited research and settled on 6 January - the year was in full swing by then. To my dismay, the first response to an email I sent after that self-imposed moratorium began with those three little words I had avoided. When I then reciprocated the pleasantry, it had lost its sincerity somewhat. I can understand why some advocate a bipartisan approach to sign a deadline into law.
On a more pertinent political note, in our cover feature this month, Lee Faulkner unfolds the issues behind the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He points to some of the political pressures faced by professionals during the so-called umbrella revolution and offers his opinion on possible scenarios under which professionalism could be tested in future (The umbrella revolution).
With many actuaries currently in the midst of year-end accounting, Steven Draper considers default risk and allowing for this when deriving a discount rate for a corporate bond-match. Although it is not standard practice, Draper sets out why he is a proponent of taking this approach to value retirement benefit obligations under US GAAP. He also offers possible solutions to minimise losses from defaults and downgrades (Missing a Trick?).
Recent news from the euro area will also have a marked impact on global markets, and thus our long-term assumptions. As central banks in the UK and the US wind down their quantitative easing programmes, the European Central Bank could shortly begin its own in an effort to stoke economic recovery. Current low oil prices could be positive overall - Brent crude is at a five-year low and there are no signs of a reduction in supply, a fundamental shift with lasting effects.
We are certainly set for an interesting year as we grapple with these issues and help others understand and manage the risks they pose. I am interested to hear your thoughts. Also, an answer to my opening question is welcome - it just might solve my own social woes.
I wish you a happy new year!