Our industry insider dreams of Down Under and does a U-turn on modern technology
While flood losses are putting them through the wringer at the moment, you’ve got to hand it to the insurance companies Down Under for turning the tables. Back in the late 1990s, when I was still doing the office tea round, there was a group of reinsurers in Australia writing international business who, let’s say, could be persuaded to take on business on some interesting terms. You don’t need me to tell you what happened to them. Judging by how the Brisbane flood loss estimates are playing out, the Australian insurers have done a good job at pushing the bulk of their losses onto international reinsurers. What goes around comes around, I guess.
Still, the Aussies got a proper pounding in the Ashes, which I hear led to much partying for certain lucky employees at Brit Insurance, sponsors of the victorious England team. Several members of staff were in Australia over the new year, living it large with the players (where was my invite, folks?). The Brit guys also brought some of the Ashes magic back to the UK, holding competitions for charity to see who could best imitate Graeme Swann’s ‘sprinkler’ victory dance. It’s good to see that underwriters are putting their entrepreneurial flair to good use.
Business as usual
Like a lot of my mates in the sector, I got an iPad for Christmas. So I was made up to hear that Catlin and BMS managed to place the first risk at Lloyd’s using one of Apple’s magic tablets. You might think this is a strange thing for me to say, given my previous fears that modern technology would have a detrimental impact on business practices – that is, hanging around Lloyd’s getting all the gossip. But I’ve had to change my tune, because these little beauties have some serious benefits. The guys who placed the risk met at the box anyway, so business as usual. But now you can play Angry Birds while you’re in the queue for the box – or if the underwriter’s boring you.
How about that Michael Watson at Canopius? Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, is he? The ink on the KGM deal is barely dry, and he’s already taken a pop at Omega. I didn’t see that coming but, then again, he did hint he was on the lookout for more deals, and that they would most likely be in the commercial insurance or reinsurance area. I also hear he’s been on the lookout for a way to get Canopius a stock market listing for a while, so if it doesn’t work out with Omega, watch out Hardy, Chaucer and Novae.
I have to admit I raised an eyebrow when I heard about UK chairman Charlie Cantlay’s planned departure from Aon – he’s been there forever. Even mega-mergers haven’t managed to shift him. I wonder what he’ll do next. The market’s not good for small brokers, so he’s unlikely to set up shop on his own, and I reckon it’d be a big step to work for a rival reinsurance broker after all that time with Aon. Maybe he’ll become a reinsurance buyer – seems to be the natural next step for brokers these days …
There’s not much to laugh about in Lloyd’s insurers’ stock exchange announcements these days, but I did spot something in one of Hardy’s recently that made me chuckle. When it first put out its share buy-back details, the company accidentally used the name “Rolf” in place of “Beazley”, which, as you remember, it was trying to buy at the time. Hardy hurriedly issued an update correcting the mistake, but the cat was out of the bag. So who’s Rolf? Who cares – I know what I’ll be calling Beazley underwriters from now on. GR