Pundits are never at a loss for a colorful word to describe the state of the (re)insurance market. But the market of 2011 poses a unique challenge: There are actually very few words to describe it. It clearly is not an up market, so no bullish terms are in order - but it is not a down market, either. It is not a market in transition, a stalled market or a market that is retracing. These all indicate a sense of what is going to happen - when in reality, there appears to be no such conviction.
There is really only one word that adequately describes the state of the (re)insurance market: “adrift.” Profound uncertainties exist at all levels of the economy, the financial markets and the industry itself. Until these are resolved, it will be all but impossible to predict with any confidence the (re)insurance market’s next move.
In my 30-plus years in the business, I have rarely seen a market riddled with this degree of uncertainty. The monumental earthquakes that struck Japan and New Zealand early this year far exceeded expectations and historical precedents. As a result, how confident can we be about earthquake loss assumptions for California, New Madrid or Tokyo in their wake?
Here in Europe, the sovereign debt crisis drags on with no end in sight. Solvency II looms over companies that need to make complex and costly (and still not yet fully clarified) accommodations to the upcoming regime. In many cases this year’s catastrophe model changes created a sudden, unexpected spike in loss estimates. Additionally, we see cause for concern among the reserves that recently have been so important in helping to shore up corporate performance. New research from our analytical team indicates that the reserving cycle may be about to enter a phase of significant tightening.
This leaves every CEO asking the same question: How do we achieve growth in this directionless market? It is important that managements do not translate their own lack of confidence in a foggy economic or rating environment into a lack of decision-making and investment. This only exacerbates a negative situation. Rather, teams must have plans tailored to low growth or recessionary economic circumstances, as well as access to insight and tools they can use to outpace their rivals.
Indeed, we at Guy Carpenter feel that this is not the time to hunker down and weather the storm; doing that all but assures contraction. We believe that growth opportunities exist - or can be created - by those with the right information, tools and transactional capabilities … and the fortitude to use them.
As insurance professionals, we must remember that a market such as this can work to our advantage. Uncertainty equals risk, which, for us - unlike virtually any other industry - equals opportunity. New and old risks can be securitized. Nontraditional approaches can be used to counter the squeeze on reserves. New and emerging markets can be developed and capitalized, while changing demographics in mature markets offer new opportunities. New tools and strategies such as predictive modeling based on real data rather than fixed assumption can be employed to more effectively manage and monetize old - or evolving - risks.
But while these opportunities do in fact exist, they are not going to fall into anyone’s lap. They require determination, creativity, deep expertise, the right tools and the smartest people. They require intellectual innovation, a global approach and the ability to move efficiently from a great idea through development to execution.
Guy Carpenter’s new branding campaign is built upon the idea that “this is where extraordinary thinking gets real.” It is focused on the space between an idea and its execution. On leveraging the industry’s best people and most sophisticated tools. On seeing opportunities in any environment, developing them and executing them quickly on our clients’ behalf.
In other words, it is the right message for the current challenging market - and the perfect way to describe Guy Carpenter.