Even a deluge over his finest smart casuals could not dampen our insider’s Monte Carlo spirit
Ugly rumours of the death of gossip
Another year, another Monte Carlo, and I must say what a wash-out it was. I’m not talking about the rain on Monday either. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the annual trip to the Côte d’Azur and the chance to share a few quiet, civilised drinks with my chums in the industry. But come on: where was the juicy gossip, the mergers, the failures? It’s coming to something when no one spills the beans even after a few glasses of champagne at Guy Carpenter’s expense. I asked a couple of people about this worrying lack of rumour and speculation, and the disturbing consensus seems to be that the reinsurance industry is now a more professional place. So where am I going to place my – ahem – more challenging risks now? Thankfully, there were a few raised eyebrows at the concept of there being no more badly run reinsurers left, so perhaps there is hope.
While many people were talking about a lack of catastrophic losses during the Rendez-Vous. I strongly dispute this. I got caught in the aforementioned downpour trying to make it to the Café de Paris from the Fairmont and completely ruined my loafers. They weren’t cheap, and my insurance company will definitely be getting the bill. There was no shortage of people in the same boat, many of whom I’m sure have even more expensive tastes than my good self. The industry should thank its lucky stars that polo shirts rather than suits are de rigueur at Monte, otherwise it could have been looking at a sizeable unforeseen attritional loss.
No sharps and flats for Thiele’s finale
It was good to see outgoing PartnerRe chief executive Patrick Thiele at Monte Carlo, even though he’s ducking out of the industry for good this year. As you’d expect, a lot of people were coming over and wishing him a happy retirement, although the man himself quipped, in his typical caustic style: “You’re just congratulating me on not getting fired.” The question is, what will he do next? One thing’s for certain – he has no plans to follow in predecessor Herbert Haag’s footsteps and become a composer. Apparently our Mr Thiele doesn’t have a musical bone in his body.
Ajit Jain’s long flotation
After years of marvelling at the money-making prowess of Warren Buffett, I’ve now got a new favourite: Warren’s right-hand reinsurance man, Ajit Jain. The sage himself had this to say about Ajit in his most recent letter to shareholders: “If Charlie [Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice-chairman], Ajit and I are ever in a sinking boat – and you can only save one of us – swim to Ajit.” It’s comforting to know that even this star performer had humble beginnings. Apparently, when he first started going to Monte Carlo 25 years ago, Ajit had to get the bus from Nice airport with the rest of the upstarts.
You’ve got to hand it to the lads and lasses at Canopius. In their bid to make a splash at the Rendez-Vous, they carried business cards made up like vintage football cards, complete with photos of the team members in a special Canopius strip. Naturally, I’ve been trying to get the full set. Anyone want to swap my spare Michael Watson for a Chris Swan?
A different class
How’s this for a coincidence: Mike McGavick, who now runs XL, went to the same Seattle school as his predecessor Brian O’Hara. Apparently they never met at school: there is 10 years between them and they only got acquainted after they both started running companies. I have to wonder whether, if they had met in the playground, the pair wouldn’t be as good friends as they are today. GR