August 31st, 2009

Top 10 Stories: August 2009

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

1. 1H2009 Reinsurer Financial Update: Capital Returns: Underwriting and investment gains contributed to a general increase in capital in the first half of 2009. Some reinsurers have even regained half or more of what they lost as a result of last year’s hurricanes and financial shocks. Financial market stability has opened several options unthinkable nine months ago, including share buybacks, dividends and even maintaining a bit of extra capital as a cushion — after all, it was the excess capital held at the beginning of last year that helped reinsurers withstand the effects of the financial crisis.

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2. Cat Bond Update: Second Quarter 2009*: The catastrophe bond market continues to advance, though issuances are down from 2008. The activity represents a positive rally from the hiatus during the second half of 2008. For the first half of 2009, nine bonds have been issued, with aggregate risk capital of USD1.38 billion. The continuing stabilization of financial markets and a decrease in catastrophe bond spreads, however, could result in more issuance activity in the second half of the year, particularly for sponsors which had considered issuances in the first and second quarters but deferred their plans because catastrophe bond spreads were considered to be too wide (i.e., catastrophe bond protection was considered to be too expensive).

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3. What Does Solvency II Mean for Insurance Groups?: When Solvency II becomes effective in 2012, group support — which would have allowed capital held at the group level to cover the requirements of any company in the group — will be not permitted. This prohibition will require group entities to hold capital according to the Solvency Capital Requirements (SCR) in each individual entity. The application of group-level diversification benefits to individual entities will not be allowed. This last-minute change to the original framework directive may cause some groups to change their structures. At a minimum, they are likely to rethink how much risk capital will be carried at the group level versus the operating entity level given that the risk capital needed in the group will increase without recognition of group support.

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4. Modernizing the U.S. Insurance Regulatory Structure, Part I: State of Regulation: Though Benjamin Franklin created the first insurance “company” in the mid-eighteenth century, it took another 100 years for insurance regulation to develop formally. New Hampshire established its state regulator in 1851 … and the U.S. state insurance regulatory system had been born.

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5. Solvency II — New Developments on Counterparty Default Risk: In its series of Consultation Papers on Level 2 Implementing Measures for Solvency II, CEIOPS drafted a new proposal for the calculation of counterparty credit risk. While Consultation Paper 28 (March 2009) gives a general overview of the proposal, the more recent Consultation Paper 51 (July 2009) provides insight into the details of the model.

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6. Five Ways to Make Cat Models More Effective: Catastrophe models don’t make decisions: they merely inform risk managers. To get more out of catastrophe models, therefore, you need to look at how they are used now — and where there’s room for improvement. Catastrophe model use still has untapped potential, which means you could have a hidden revenue and profit opportunity in your portfolio. Optimize how you work with catastrophe models, and you could make your capital more productive.

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7. The Firm Value Risk Model: This paper, a sequel to chapter 2.6 of Guy Carpenter’s 2007 book, Enterprise Risk Analysis, illustrates some of the complex interactions between risk, capital strategy, and the optimal usage of risk transfer; and how critical decisions can be based on impact to (re)insurer value using Guy Carpenter’s Firm-Value Risk Model (FVRM) methodology.

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8. Risk Profile, Appetite and Tolerance: Fundamental Concepts in Risk Management and Reinsurance Effectiveness: Prior to the recent turbulence in the financial markets, insurers and reinsurers were increasing their use of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) to make risk and capital management decisions. While this was driven in part by rating agencies and regulators, many carriers began to recognize the value of metric-based frameworks and capital models in evaluating their portfolios.

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9. Five Ways to Allocate Capital: No single approach to capital allocation is objectively superior. Those that are more effective require an investment of time and resources, while the simpler methods sacrifice accuracy. A tradeoff is required based on a (re)insurer’s priorities and capabilities. Before you make a choice, however, be sure you’re aware of the alternatives.

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10. A Sense of Tranquility: A tumultuous market is beginning to show signs of calm. After more than nine months of financial market volatility — and uncertainty as to reinsurance rates — we are looking back on three relatively stable renewals and a full quarter of financial results. Many forecasted the worst last September, and now, we’re seeing that insurers and reinsurers have been able to adapt to a capital-constrained environment. Slowly, earnings are recovering, and capital is becoming available — both of which are keeping reinsurance rate increases under control. This is the result, however, of a precarious balance between supply and demand, one which could be disrupted by a shock to the marketplace.

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* Securities or investments, as applicable, are offered in the United States through GC Securities, a division of MMC Securities Corp., a US registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC. Main Office: 1166 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036. Phone: (212) 345-5000. Securities or investments, as applicable, are offered in the European Union by GC Securities, a division of MMC Securities (Europe) Ltd., which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Reinsurance products are placed through qualified affiliates of Guy Carpenter & Company, LLC. MMC Securities Corp., MMC Securities (Europe) Ltd. and Guy Carpenter & Company, LLC are affiliates owned by Marsh & McLennan Companies. This communication is not intended as an offer to sell or a solicitation of any offer to buy any security, financial instrument, reinsurance or insurance product.

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