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September 2009 Archives

September 10, 2009

Monte Carlo madness

We at Reinsurance Towers have just returned from the Monte Carlo Rendez-vous feeling the worse for wear but happy to see so many of our readers on fine form. Thanks to those of you who spotted our very unsubtly branded t-shirts and came to say hello.

Looking back at the conference I cannot help but remark that it was a relatively subdued affair.

With no catastrophes, natural or otherwise, major acquisitions and very little market shocking news many delegates this year were struggling for topics to discuss other than the standard conversations about rates and business as usual.

However, in the absence of any real scandal or market changing event the gossip thrived. Here are a couple of my personal favorites out of the rumors heard by the Reinsurance crew:

1) Market gossips were spreading the word that Ariel was to be the latest Bermudian reinsurer to be sold to the highest bidder. When Reinsurance caught up with Don Kramer at our 40th Birthday Party he was amused and totally unaware where the rumors had come from: "It's news to me..." he said. However he did admit that the reinsurer may be looking for a way to become a public company. Watch this space...

2) Another rumor circulating suggested that Validus is to make all of IPC's staff redundant. A little bit of exaggeration going on there maybe? Here's the truth about the rumour

3) According to hearsay another Bermudian reinsurer's CEO was walking around the evening parties saying to all and sundry that the business is up for sale for the grand price of $1. A victim of malicious gossip or one two many glasses of bubbly I wonder...

4) However, the prize for the best rumor has to go to a tale that was voiced claiming that a certain Lloyd's representative paid over two hundred thousand euros for his hotel room for the week of the conference. If such a hotel room were to exist I would certainly like to see it!

However Reinsurance can confirm that at least one anecdote floating around the conference was true. Two representatives of a certain global broker did in fact have to be rescued after locking themselves on what is believed to have been a balcony after an afternoon drinking session. The red faced culprits were rescued after their pitiful pleas for help were heard by a journalist and the local security services.

Anyone else hear any good gossip?

For more serious analysis of the news from the Rendez-vous see our website. Yours truly was also wondering around with a video camera scaring executives at the conference and the results of that endeavor should hopefully be up live on the site within the next two weeks.

September 21, 2009

What I've learned from 9/11...

On the 18th September 2009 Alex Ferguson wrote for the Reinsurance Weekly email:

Ever since two planes blew away my American Dream, September 11 is always an important day for me.

I don't know what to say, what to do, and what to write. Last week it seemed irresponsible for me to pen "The Weekly," which is my take on reinsurance at its very worst and jovial.

What do you say on the anniversary of the senseless death of thousands of people? Shutting up seemed to do fine.

So why am I bringing things up a week later? At the moment I'm reading a book called "102 Minutes" about the moments around the attacks on the Twin Towers, when workers scurried to save themselves and their workers. To say that it's moving is an understatement.

There are names that jump off the page in this case aren't just the names of the people, but the companies. The companies involved we still hear from on practically an everyday basis: Aon, Marsh & McLennan, and Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

But I can't imagine what it would have been like to be Patrick Ryan, the CEO of Aon or Jeff Greenberg, the chief executive of Marsh & McLennan that day. And I hope and pray I'll never be in the shoes of John Duffy, CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, who experienced the news that his son had perished in the Towers.

On that day, all three of them weren't chasing revenues, they were chasing people - their own friends, colleagues and employees.

As the great saying goes: "There are no atheists in foxholes", all three of them must have been praying to their God, any God that the people they knew would ring and say: "I'm safe".

295 Marsh & McLennan staff died in the attacks. 175 Aon staff died in the attacks. 67 Keefe, Bruyette & Woods staff died in the attacks.

The human cost was horrific, dwarfing the $50bn lost in assorted claims. After all, claims to insurers and reinsurers are just claims. It might hammer the odd balance sheet, but it's just red ink. This is real life we're talking about here, with all the blood and burns that go with it.

As a reinsurance journalist, my job is to act as somewhat of a stormchaser.

But whereas some people love chasing tornadoes in the Midwestern United States, reinsurance journalists chase losses, finding out who would be taking the biggest kicking from everything from a litigation settlement to a plane crash.

And while chasing losses, sometimes I forget about the cost of human life. When a plane goes down, I like to get there ahead of my competitors when finding out which insurer will pay for it and who broked the insurance and reinsurance for it. I forget that hundreds of lives are lost in a crash, and hundreds more lives are affected by those losses of life.

A book - and to be honest - the whole 9/11 anniversary, has made me think again. It's funny how something on the outside can try and change you on the inside.

After all, writing about losses doesn't come close to actually being part of one, does it?

September 22, 2009

Merger madness

Last week Reinsurance Towers took a little trip to Bermuda, hitting the 10,000 air miles traveled mark over the last four weeks (who says reinsurance isn't fun??).

While the island was fairly subdued with everyone still recovering from their Monte Carlo hangovers, there was still hot talk in the offices and, ahem, Little Venice, about mergers and acquisitions. There are rumors of a big announcement to come this week - with some talking about Montpelier being in the mix (No comment etc etc etc).

Here are a few deals we here at Reinsurance Towers think might happen...well, maybe in a million years.

Guy Carpenter & Aon Benfield - Move over Starbucks, there's a new boy in town. Zaffino and Appel team up to create a monster broker Guy Aon Benfield Carpenter in a not-so-secret attempt at world domination before turning on one another in an epic battle for supremacy. Thousands lose their jobs - but at least Manchester United's sponsor looks cool!

JLT & AHJ & Towers Perrin - A three way merger to combat the Evil Empire! Little brokers unite!

BMS & Willis - To create BM Willis because they start feeling left out

Munich Re & Hannover Re - Germany vs. Switzerland in the ultimate reinsurance battle

Scor & Swiss Re - Because the French just have to get involved

Max Capital & Endurance - Just because our inner child would love to see a reinsurer called Max Endurance...

Kat Blackler, Martin Hughes & Alex Ferguson - Not a bad Reinsurance team anyway even if we do say so ourselves.

P.S. As our latest product for the "crackberry" addicts amongst you we've launched a special mobile version of our website we share with our sister magazine Post. You can either access the site via your mobile phone browser at or you can download a free phone desktop link via the Blackberry at

Editor's blog, photo of Mark Geoghegan

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