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February 2010 Archives

February 1, 2010

A personal view

On Friday 29th January, Alex Ferguson wrote in The Weekly:

Dear all,

It's been a weird week this week: Barack Obama's "State Of The Union" address highlights his priorities in helping the American worker; Steve Jobs' "State of the Union Address" in San Francisco means that we'll all be forking out $400 - $700 for a new touchpad iTabletPadPhone computer thingy; and Queens Park Rangers "State of the Union" address on Tuesday, which included the sale of its best player and 5-0 loss in the same day, reflects the state of a medicore football team.

But funnily enough, Matthew Chambers didn't care about all of that, because he was with his epilepsy-plagued son in Cincinnati in a kid's hospital, trying to stop the seizures. He's working out whether brain surgery might help little Jude, who has a brain that is short-circuiting more than a bad Duracell factory.

What's strange is Matthew's attitude to all of this. As a pastor who hasn't pulled in a steady wage in six months things haven't been easy on him. He's been, well, sunny about it all.

And this sunniness and hope is despite having to fork out hundreds of dollars to the pharmaceutical companies for drugs which don't work and hospital fees for the doctors who want to run 400 tests because they are scared that some medical malpractice lawyer might sue their butt off to kingdom come. Oh, and he's not helped by our friends the health insurers, either.

"Insurance?" he says. "I can't get any. I tried. The insurers call it a pre-existing condition, and when the cost (of treatment, pills, hospital fees etc) is as high as it is, they won't touch it."

What pains me is that Matt's trying to save Jude's life and his future. But then again, why should the insurers care?

The insurers will tell you while protesting the Obama health plan that it's not fair (yada, yada, yada), and the shareholders would be really upset. Yes, I'm sure if you asked every shareholder about Jude Chambers, they would all say in one voice: "Screw him". Because quite frankly, that's what their companies are doing now.

Before Reinsurance Towers continues on his rant, we'll go back to pain. One of Reinsurance Towers' friends, who works for one of the WHAM brokers, was struck down by crippling stomach pain while on holiday.

His insurance claim was for $1700 - but the the insurer's only paying $1,100 - it has refused to pay the bills for his poor wife to feed and clothe herself. "It's in our policy" said the insurer, while giving little quarter to valued things like 'care' and 'decency'. Niiiiiice. But now he's back in the UK, the NHS is taking care of things, thank God, and he won't have to fork out another penny.

"I can't understand how in the UK you can get your health for free but in the US they won't treat people who can't afford it or have pre-existing conditions", he told me.

Nor can we, mate, nor can we.

And back to Matthew Chambers, because there is some silver lining to his cloud. Jude's tests with the kids' hospital in Cincinnati seem to have gone well, he told Reinsurance Towers today. As for the money? "We'll leave that in God's hands," he said. "He's provided for us in the past, and He'll provide for us again."

Let's hope He does, Matthew, because the insurance companies won't.

February 2, 2010

We need your opinions

As part of our plans for 2010, Reinsurance Magazine are planning on making some adjustments to our website.

For this we need your help.

If you could please spare a few minutes to fill in our short survey it would be much appreciated.

The survey can be found at:

Thank you for your time


February 4, 2010

Just your normal Wednesday

Yesterday a certain Reinsurance Towers editor got to spend a few hours ogling the great and the good of the English rugby team, courtesy of QBE. (For our American readers - rugby is a bit like American football but with less protective gear and a lot more ass-slapping.)

Other than realizing that Nick Easter looks spookily like an older version of my husband, I managed to get a few details about the sponsorship deal that QBE have struck up with the England team.

QBE are apparently now the exclusive insurance sponsor of the England team until 2013 and the deal also includes a decent number of tickets at games. So, anyone else off to find a new best friend at QBE?

Enjoy the rest of your week


p.s. don't forget to take part in our websites survey at

February 10, 2010


Here is the first of our series of guest blogs.

Following yesterday's announcement of the launch of social media platform Goggle Buzz to rival Twitter and Facebook, Peter Dunkley of Total Objects explains how the reinsurance market can use these platforms to their advantage:

Web 2.0 is a term that has been with us for some five years now and, although there is as yet no universal definition, it might be loosely viewed as introducing a greater social aspect to the internet.

The emergence of web 2.0 technologies has generated much interest, or at least hype, seemingly without creating too many practical applications - and certainly not in the reinsurance sector. However, it is possible for reinsurers to use these technologies to good, practical effect - you just need to think about how to apply them in a reinsurance context.

Google's new social media platform appears to be a defensive response to the gradual move away from email as a communications tool by the social media savvy generation, who are now using Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with their friends and even business contacts.

Run out of Gmail, Buzz allows people to share content such as photos and video with their friends in a way that is very familiar to users of Facebook. It does provide one interesting feature, which is the ability to aggregate social media content - although this is limited to Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader at the moment - but not Facebook.

How does it apply to the world of work, and in particular, reinsurance? At the moment there is little to recommend it. However, many business folk are using Gmail as their main email aggregator. This means that it might, moving forward, provide an instant multi-media communications tool for smarter businesses. If, as is suggested, an enterprise version is to be launched, this might be interesting if it closely integrated with other Google Apps to extend the capability of what are very effective, low cost productivity and collaboration tools.

So what else does social media have to offer the reinsurance community?

Let's look at the options.


Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia created by a massive and largely unknown group of volunteers across the world. The concept allows content to be created iteratively, backed up by discussion boards, an audit trail and tools that allow you to 'watch' as changes are made to particular pages.

It is particularly good as a framework for developing and disseminating new ideas and research. If you are considering a new approach to IBNR, for example, you can place the outline of the concept on the wiki and invite colleagues to review and contribute.


Twitter is a micro-blogging site, with posts limited to the 140 characters allowed by SMS messages, it has become known for mind-numbingly trivial where-am-I-now posts ("In the queue at Starbucks on St Mary Axe looking forward to a skinny soya milk latte") and the abbreviated musings of celebs such as Stephen Fry.

The use of Twitter for business has been marketing-led, not altogether successfully, but more interesting uses can be found for its ability to reach an interested audience quickly (and cost-effectively). In the reinsurance market, for example, Twitter could be used by the IT department to notify users of outages to the email system, or to provide immediate news of catastrophes, etc.

Facebook to Linkedin

Social networking sites such as Facebook can be used as a platform for communications and collaboration with customers, business partners and even competitors. The Group functions allow you to establish communities of interest and, although you could do this on your own website, using Facebook provides a neutral location as well as practically eliminating the time and cost of development and support.

There are other, more business-focused, social networking sites such as Linkedin and Xing, the former being the most established. Linkedin is like a Facebook for business. It supports many specific-interest groups and, perhaps most significantly, an opportunity for the web-savvy to recruit without agency costs. Like most of these sites, it doesn't cost anything to join for the basic level of membership.

All of these new tools and technologies are relatively easy to master and cheap to implement. They can, if used smartly, make a real difference to your business. They can improve internal and external communications and collaboration and are worth exploring.

Peter Dunkley is marketing director at Total Objects, the insurance and reinsurance software specialists

Don't forget to follow Reinsurance on twitter and LinkedIn

February 15, 2010

Q: What do Bermuda and Iran have in common?

A: Reinsurance Magazine

We at Reinsurance Towers are used to getting the not so subtle subject change from some of our favorite PR's when asking their spokespeople what could be known as contentious questions.

Usually anything involving politics, major losses and the ever popular "personal issues" topic leads to an intervention - at least before a certain amount of alcohol has been consumed - so you can imagine my surprise when a PR neglected to steer me to the door when the topic of conversation strayed to US politics with a certain broker MD.

I only had to mention the words US and sanctions for this Middle Eastern broker to let loose. The chap even referred to the US "starting the Roman decline" if they continue along the current line they are moving towards with Iran. Although as a broker currently doing business in Iran perhaps he is more than a little bit biased...

Elsewhere in the world of Reinsurance Towers this week the little Bermuda event we have been planning for 17th March is starting to take shape, whilst the market is captive on the island before flights to New York and London begin the day after WIF.

(And yes, I am aware of the very bad joke there - I couldn't resist)

We're currently creating a website so you can sign up to attend. I'll make sure to add it here as soon as it is up and running later this week. In the meantime please do email me ([email protected]) if you are stuck on the island looking for something to do that morning and I can send you more details.

Have a good week

February 19, 2010

Better safe than sorry?

In the last 24 hours alone, two major European (re)insurers (Allianz and Munich Re) have decided not to renew their reinsurance business in the region.

It would now seem that Iran has become that kid with the lice at school that no-one wants to play with.

We at Reinsurance Towers decided to give a few of our favorite legal eagles a call to see if they could explain to us exactly how the sanctions could affect the (re)insurance industry and it would appear that the sanctions (if passed by Congress and echoed by the UN sanctions) will effectively ban all financial institutions offering products to any company trading or transporting refined petroleum (or materials for refining) to Iran.

I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like it could effect a hell of a lot of (re)insurers, especially in the energy and marine markets.

Hannover Re also announced its policy on Iran, but took a slightly different stance saying that it conducts a small amount of business in Iran and will only continue to do so if it complies strictly with sanctions.

So are the other (re)insurers overreacting or simply being sensible?

Only time will tell but check out our Middle East supplement in our March edition out in a couple of weeks for our thoughts.

Have a good weekend


Editor's blog, photo of Mark Geoghegan

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