I survived my first Rendez-Vous de Septembre two years ago. There have been interesting changes in just that short time.
Granted, I was particularly green during my first Rendez-Vous. I recall hyperventilating as I hobbled around the marina in impractical heels gasping down the phone that somebody had moved the GE Insurance Solutions yacht. It was not at the mooring position I had been given. (Sweat pouring, grasp on reality fading, I finally spotted the distinctive blue flags and was 20 minutes late for my interview.) In just two years the GE boat has gone and thankfully so have the panic attacks.
This year, even more so than last year, the presence of capital market investors and asset managers was obvious. They’re all there in the official Rendez-Vous programme – Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Lehman Brothers and Fortis Bank – along with a sprinkling of hedge fund and private equity listings. They threw parties and networked while their company yachts bobbed up and down in the marina.
That wasn’t the only difference. You’d have to be blind or permanently intoxicated not to have noticed the monstrous advertising campaign that dominated this year’s Rendez-Vous. Two years ago Scor was stuck in a triple-B quagmire and had been all but written off. This year it was bullishly – and almost literally – shouting from the rooftops that it had regained all its former glory and more. As Denis Kessler stood on the ballroom balcony of the Hotel de Paris, watching the finale of his exorbitant campaign unfold under the spotlights in Casino Square, he must have felt just a little bit smug.
Other changes were subtler. The CEO of a technology provider had gone from looking demoralised to well… pretty smug as well. Two years ago he had bemoaned the London market’s dinosaur approach to change. This year, he was all-smiles talking about yet another step forward.
The mood, for everyone, was overwhelmingly upbeat. This is not that surprising. In September 2005 pale-faced executives were still coming to terms with the losses from $40bn Katrina. This year, they were still raking in record profits and figuring out what to do with it all. US surplus lines insurers anyone?
“As Denis Kessler stood on the ballroom balcony of the Hotel de Paris he must have felt just a little bit smug
Helen Yates, Editor, Global Reinsurance
There is no escaping reality though. The good times are over and prices are coming down. It will take a $30bn-$50bn event to change all that, says Aon Re Global (page 10).
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Cheaper reinsurance means more buyers, less retention. From January through July 2007 the reinsurance markets have funded more capacity than was issued during 2006 in its entirety, which bodes well for 1 January.
Our focus in this edition is on terrorism – another subject that got quite an airing in Monte Carlo. It might be six years since 9/11, but the future for a viable terrorism insurance market is far from certain and the need for government involvement remains. The two heavyweights of the reinsurance world have made this crystal clear.
Swiss Re advocates a more consistent approach to coverage where government backstops exist. “The optional aspect of terrorism coverage does not appeal to us,” said CEO Jacques Aigrain, speaking at a press conference during the Rendez-Vous. Munich Re went a step further. According to board member Torsten Jeworrek the reinsurer is only willing to provide cover if pools are available. “Our company will not provide full back-up capacity,” he said.
In the US, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act is due to sunset on 31 December. A 15-year extension is being proposed, which would provide much-needed stability. However, it still needs President Bush’s backing and this is by no means certain. Its provision that insurers provide cover for attacks by weapons of mass destruction also has many concerned.
For those of you who missed out on our coverage during this year’s Monte Carlo Rendez-Vous you can access all archived news on our website www.globalreinsurance.com. We interviewed 22 senior individuals and wrote over 40 stories in four days.