There is much angst about the anti-elite masses making "crazy, irrational, uninformed" choices such as Brexit or supporting Trump. It's not actually irrational.
In some risk modeling work I do, you calculate the likely range (actually probability distribution) of a company's financial results going forward and compare it to the bare minimum they actually need to achieve to survive. The smaller that safety margin, the less risk the company can take to ensure failure is tolerably unlikely. Paradoxically, at a certain point it makes sense to take *more* risk: when the baseline outcome is actually below the bare minimum needed, what in (American) football is called a Hail Mary pass makes rational sense. A (say) 25% of success is better than guaranteed (continued) failure.
The same is true for the sizable economically-dispossessed, security-concerned, and angry chunk of the population today, whether UK, US, or elsewhere. The current trendline is unacceptable to them, so any alternative is better. A high-risk "crazy, uninformed" one is quite rational -- especially given the paucity of choice.
The establishment strategy of trying to starve the disruptive alternative of its support base merely by highlighting its "craziness" will have limited effectiveness, especially over the long term. It needs a better, more broadly acceptable alternative whose baseline outcome is more broadly embraced to reduce the attractiveness of a blow-it-all-up Hail Mary.
How good really is your company's risk management? The Brexit situation provides a good litmus test.
The Leave win was surprising, but with polls running close to 50-50 in recent weeks, and information markets pegging Brexit likelihood over 20%, a company with prudent and effective strategic risk management cannot say they were "shocked", as in this article from today's WSJ.
I know two companies who anticipated the possibility of Brexit in their last scenario planning or strategic risk assessment exercises. One was a UK-based company, the other a North American one with low direct UK exposure, but correctly fearing a Brexit win would roil financial markets much more broadly. Did your company do something similar? Are you now fleshing out a couple of different possible Brexit evolution narratives going forward and what they might mean for your company, including your value chain partners, in the next few years? Or did your company just assume and trust it "wouldn't happen" and you're now scrambling to think it through?
More broadly, are you considering a longer-term "End of the Globalization Era" doomsday scenario? Something that covers a fundamental reshape of the EU, systematically increased protectionism in the U.S., and a global re-emergence of trade barriers? How it affects not only your direct economic drivers, but those of your customers, your suppliers, your competitors, and other stakeholders? You may not like that scenario, you may not even truly believe in it. But it's in the realm of possibility, and if your company is doing good strategic risk management, in the current environment it should be front and centre in your risk management and strategic planning. What steps should you take now? What plans should you start preparing? What instabilities will harm you and which ones may present an opportunity?
The risk management world is full of checklists, frameworks, and diagnostics on the quality of ERM or risk management more broadly. Sometimes a simple litmus test provided by fate is equally powerful.
I'm not an actuary, but do occasionally work with institutional investors, where the tradeoff between market risk (volatility as well as systemic macro risk) and runout/longevity risk is important, and has significant impact on optimal portfolio construction and risk management in closely held ownership stakes.
Approaching this from the side of personal financial planning, I've appreciated the writing of Prof. Moshe Milevsky in Toronto ("Are you a stock or a bond?"), including the thinking in his book "Pensionize your nest egg" with Alexandra Macqueen. The shift from DB to DC pensions is opening up a longevity risk can of worms many people are not sufficiently concerned about.
Over at my old colleague (25 years ago!) Michael James' blog, I've done some quick analysis that shows very roughly (with crude assumptions) that for a typical North American retiree, longevity risk protection can be worth about as much as an extra 3% per year of investment returns. A value not insignificant given reasonable after-tax, real (post-inflation) portfolio return expectations -- and ripe for capturing (and often in fact captured in large part) by higher and less transparent product fee levels.
Principal, Balanced Risk Strategies, Ltd..