Slowly but surely the ingrained prejudices about run-off are changing. This sizable and increasingly profitable business is no longer viewed as a “dead industry” but as a lucrative and innovative sector, which is attracting the keen attention of savvy investors.
The $7bn landmark deal between National Indemnity and Equitas, announced last year, was a big leap forward in market perceptions.
If the Sage himself, Warren Buffett, can see value in a mass of long-tail asbestos liabilities then could the rest of us be missing a trick? Buffett was clearly unfazed by the undertaking, saying at the time: “Putting Berkshire Hathaway’s Gibraltar-like strength behind the remaining problems – which will take many decades to resolve – eliminates any remaining worries for all concerned.” But then Buffett is no stranger to run-off, having bought-up Lloyd’s managing agency Marlborough in 2000, which had two run-off syndicates at the time.
Lloyd’s has seen something of a revival of late, with two new syndicates – Leinster Syndicate 4882 and Equity Syndicate Management, Syndicate 1208 – dedicated largely to reinsurance-to-close (RITC). Until recently, RITC was very much at the sidelines (only Liberty, Imagine and Marlborough dabbled) and there was limited capacity.
What a difference one year makes. Writing for Global Reinsurance in March 2006, Dermot Joyce, executive director at Capita Insurance Services, addressed the limited exit strategies available in the Lloyd’s market. “Speed, absolute operational scale and ability to commute are the only tools available to bring the parties together and make transactions in finality a reality,” he said. Since then, Lloyd’s has completed its first successful Part VII transfer, attracted the business of dedicated run-off syndicates and seen a successful resolution of Equitas. Granted there is still a long way to go, but the Lloyd’s experience surely sets a precedent for the run-off sector as a whole?