April 9th, 2012

GC Capital Ideas Top Stories: First Quarter 2012

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

1. 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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2. Guy Carpenter: January 1, 2012, Renewals Reveal Shift in Industry Behavior: The January 1, 2012, renewals saw a shift in industry behavior as both insurers and reinsurers implemented more sophisticated, customized approaches to risk assessment and mitigation, according to Guy Carpenter. In its 2012 global reinsurance outlook, Catastrophes, Cold Spots and Capital: Navigating for Success in a Transitioning Market, Guy Carpenter reported that reinsurers were in a position to undertake a major review of pricing and underwriting going into the renewal season. This led to significant market fragmentation and increased market volatility at January 1.

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3. Floods in Eastern Australia: Heavy rain has caused widespread flooding across parts of Queensland State and New South Wales State in eastern Australia, damaging hundreds of homes and businesses and forcing thousands of people to evacuate their properties. The floodwaters have reached record levels in some areas, isolating several communities.

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4. Update: Floods in Thailand: Thailand has experienced its worst flooding in years over the last few months, leaving more than 420 people dead and causing severe damage across northern and central regions of the country. The floods have severely damaged and disrupted manufacturing operations in Thailand.

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5. 2011 Catastrophe Update: Historical Global Losses, Cluster of Costly International Losses: 2011 has been an unusually eventful year for the (re)insurance sector. In addition to the challenging economic environment and major catastrophe model updates, (re)insurers were hit by an exceptional accumulation of global natural catastrophes. Two of the most damaging earthquakes in recent times struck Japan and New Zealand early in the year, causing huge losses.

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6. 2011 Catastrophe Losses and Reinsurance Capital: Part I: The reinsurance sector faced multiple headwinds in 2011. Significant losses in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States and Thailand resulted in (re)insurers paying out more than USD100 billion in claims. Adding to the pressure on the market has been the impact of major catastrophe model releases, particularly for US wind risks. Nevertheless, reinsurance capital has remained resilient despite these pressures. The sector’s dedicated capital position recovered from most of its losses in 2011 and ended the year at a level close to that at the start of the year.

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7. Calling All General Insurance Reserving Actuaries: Does the Bootstrap Model “Work”? Guy Carpenter’s extensive back-testing of reserve distributions created using the popular paid chain ladder bootstrap method has shown that these distributions materially under-estimate reserve risk.

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8. Periodic Payment Orders - Issues and Implications for Reinsurance: Following the passage of the Courts Act 2003, which gave courts in England and Wales the power to impose rest-of-life structured settlements, known as periodical payment orders (PPOs) to provide for the long-term care and loss of earnings of severely injured third parties, the actual incidence of such awards in the market has been relatively low. It is clear however that the trend towards PPOs has accelerated over the past year, partly driven by low interest rates.

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9. Terrorism: Global Terror Attacks and Hotspots: The increasingly diverse and dispersed threat has seen worldwide terrorist activity rise in recent years. The number of global terrorist attacks peaked at more than 14,400 in 2006. Although there has been a slight dip in the number of attacks over the last five years, they remain at historically high levels. Attacks increased dramatically in Afghanistan and Iraq following the deployment of coalition combat troops. Several other countries have also witnessed a big jump in terrorist activity recently, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

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10. Capital Management: Reinsurance Valuations at a Long-Term Low: The challenging macroeconomic environment of subdued growth and low interest rates meant the reinsurance sector ended 2011 trading near 20-year lows. As Figure 1 illustrates, the average price to book ratio for the sector of 0.893 is just greater than one and a half standard deviations down from the 20-year average of 1.32. The sovereign debt crisis, threat of a double-dip recession, heavy non-peak zone catastrophe losses during 2011 and concerns about reserve adequacy are among the factors contributing to volatility and low valuations. Additionally, despite the heavy losses incurred during 2011, many reinsurers are still perceived to have excess capital relative to projected earnings and top-line growth.

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