Haggie Partners

Fear not the scribes

By Dr Adrian Leonard @HaggiePartner

As underwriters, brokers, analysts, claims pros, modellers, software gurus, and all the rest haul their very lightest dark wool suits to the cleaners in advance of Monte Carlo, some will be carrying a related seasonal burden. It’s the time of year when many in our sector begin to feel the dull anxiety brought on by nervous anticipation of a scheduled meeting with a journalist. It can ruin the unique feeling of Monte-citement known only to those who attend the Rendez-vous. It would be so much eased by advanced knowledge of the questions the gentle people of the press intend to ask.

Haggie has joined the reinsurers at their annual Cote d’Azur shindig for decades, and has seen the evolution of the questions journalists tend to ask. Since we’re here to help, we’d like to offer you the following insight, which we hope will ease any pre-Monte-interview butterflies.

Monte Carlo is now in its sixtieth year. While we admit that we weren’t there at the beginning (David Haggie was in very short trousers then), the tiny corps of European journalists with an awareness of reinsurance in post-war Europe had only one question: underwriting.

Only a handful of Londoners went to the Rendez-vous in the sixties (and okay, still not us). They had begun to attend because Europeans had started to buy rather more reinsurance in London than had been their habit, and even to sell it in the shadow of Lloyd’s. Similarly in the seventies, Americans set out on their Lloyd’s-broker shopping-spree. These developments goaded the emergence of a new line of questioning: distribution.

Then in the 1990s, people began fiddling with alternative risk transfer, and many reinsurers sought an injection of funds by becoming quoted companies, with the accompanying need to satisfy shareholders. That led to a new question: capital.

A fourth, less predictable kind of question has always been possible: enquiries that are actually about something other than reinsurance, but might have an effect on our market. Call it ‘everything else’. This category includes, for example, regulation (which no one asked about until this century) and Brexit.

So we have:

  1. Underwriting
  2. Distribution
  3. Capital
  4. Exogenous factors

It is Haggie Partner’s humble belief that every question at Monte Carlo falls into one of these:

  1. Rates, Ts&Cs, the hours clause, model diversity, variable pricing, regional aggregation of cargo risks, cyber-attacks, TOM, terrorism pooling, natural catastrophe reserve releases…
  2. Hubs, MGAs, broker facilities, lineslips, e-portals, consolidation, cost ratios…
  3. Cat bonds, institutional investment, collateralised reinsurance, Lloyd’s index, ILS funds, sidecars…
  4. Solvency II, Brexit, Trump, the Insurance Act, the weather…

Journalists have a niggling tendency to ask company-specific questions, such as “how’s your merger progressing”, but these are really about underwriting, distribution, or capital. Answer honestly, and don’t sweat your press appointments. You know what they are going to ask.


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