Issue 65
January 2017
In this Issue
  • Trump policies and May's "hard Brexit" pose uncertainties
  • India's reinsurance market and Mumbai Rendezvous
  • Declining rates; RoE's and ILS cycle management
  • AIG-National Indemnity deal
  • Prince Fielder and Carrie Fisher claims to hit London
  • Roger hopes insurers remember young tech consumers have other priorities than insurance
  • Quick Bytes: North Korean insurance fraud; Mosul Dam is a big problem; Berkshire looking at Japanese quake market; EU regulations saved lives in Berlin; China-London train connection; US coastal buffer for hurricanes; US attorneys worry about AIG-Nico deal; "death by overwork" in Japan

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Dear Colleague, 
As feared, hopes that the January renewals might be an "inflection point", with premium increases, proved to be bedrock dreams. Depending upon which analysis you read rates are still dropping or nearing the bottom --but we've probably made this same observation several times over the past few years!

There are at least two new areas of uncertainty in the world for the risk industry to consider as the Trump Administration has taken office and Theresa May's so-called "hard Brexit" plan was announced.  In addition to the problems of declining premiums, low interest rates and rising natural CAT claims, markets now need to factor in uncertainty as a result of political change in the UK and US.

The India reinsurance market has sort of exploded onto the scene too as the government in New Delhi has liberalized the entry requirements for foreign reinsurers to operate in India. The 10th Annual Reinsurance Rendezvous in Mumbai was well attended and CATEX was present as well.

Of course we will look at the AIG-Berkshire Hathaway reinsurance transaction too.  It's too big to ignore and after picking through the numbers we can see how it makes sense for both AIG and National Indemnity.

We've reviewed two stories as well that include details about how reinsurance plays a role in day-to-day stories that are actually covered by the mainstream media. No alternative facts for us!

Our regular Roger Crombie  column is here too. Roger has his own view about technology and the insurance industry and has drawn on his long background as an industry observer to make his usual list of trenchant and witty observations. 

We may see some of you at the Artemis ILS conference in New York on February 3rd. The program includes a talk by Nephila's Frank Majors.

As always if you have any questions or comments about CATEX Reports, or want more information about CATEX, or our products, please feel free to contact me.
Thank you very much.
Stephanie A. Fucetola
Senior Vice President/CATEX

Political uncertainty from London and Washington

We were surprised to see UK Prime Minister May's public pronouncement that the so-called "hard" Brexit was going to be the one pursued by the British government. The Prime Minister made it clear that there would be no effort made to remain in the European common market and that Britain planned to completely disengage itself from the EU.  Talk of half measures such as the Norway model, which permits continued access to the EU market, that had been hoped for by many in the insurance and reinsurance community, was soundly rejected. Britain was going it alone because, as Ms. May noted, the voters had spoken.

We're not too much into conspiracies but recently we happened to watch the film based on John le Carre's novel "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold".  The film, starring Richard Burton, reminded us that, in fiction at least, the British can play the misdirection game as effectively as anyone if not better.  We couldn't help but think of this as our reaction to May's announced Brexit direction was surprise at the Prime Minister's stern warning that no half measures would be considered. 

Less than one week after May's speech, the UK Supreme Court ruled that Parliament must approve the triggering of the Article 50 process which will give Britain two years to negotiate its exit.  The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling last month which mandated the Parliamentary role.  One has to wonder why Ms. May would have made such a strident case for a total and complete divorce from the EU if she knew that there was a likelihood that in just the following week the Supreme Court would ensure that Parliament had to approve her request to trigger Article 50.

Per the ruling Parliament has to approve the government's request to begin the "leave" process which is triggered by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Submitting Article 50 to Brussels starts a two year countdown during which Britain must finalize its exit discussions with the members of the EU.  During open debate what caveats, amendments or conditions Parliament may attach to its approval of the Prime Minister's Article 50 request is unknown.  What is not unknown though is just how far Theresa May is prepared to go as she readies Britain for its divorce from the continent. She made that perfectly clear in her speech last week --a speech which by the way resulted in a spate of stories about risk-bearers re-domiciling outside the UK so as to maintain European market access.

We'll see how this ends up but May seems to be negotiating from a position of great strength.  Apart from grumbling from the international financial types in The City, her speech didn't result in too much outcry.  She was savvy enough to couch the harsh exit terms as being in line with the will of the electorate expressed in June.  Now both the electorate and Parliament know just how far she is prepared to go in implementing Brexit.  If the public wants her to moderate her Brexit plan they can do so by exerting pressure on their MPs to try to laden the Article 50 request with "softer" exit conditions.  Either way May has cleared it off her desk.

While politically the PM's actions may have been masterful, the uncertainty for the risk industry remains. Writing from the United States, we now know a thing or two about uncertainty. The day after the inauguration of Donald Trump the US saw the biggest demonstrations in its history as millions marched across the country in protest of the 24 hour old presidency. Trump, watching the demonstrations on TV, was said to be incensed by TV commentators observations about the size of the protest demonstrations in comparison to the attendance the previous day at his own inauguration, that he followed what for him was a predictable path --he tweeted.  Things went downhill from there and it was a rocky 48 first hours of his presidency.

Every new administration has a learning curve and hopefully the new president will realize that his term runs until January 20, 2021 and he need not worry about things such as crowd sizes; pundit remarks or personal criticisms.  He won. He is the president and if his pro-business agenda gains traction it could bode well for the US economy.  

On the uncertainty front however the view is not as optimistic. Trump seems a person who revels in being perceived of as unpredictable. This unpredictability has thus far extended to his positions on; climate change, Russia, China, US intelligence agencies, the FBI, Senate Democrats, and anyone who voted against him. (As 54% of the popular vote went against him he has a vast pool of possible targets).

Business is holding its breath. The new president has publicly shamed specific companies --Carrier, Boeing, GM, Lockheed, Ford, Toyota --to ensure that jobs remain in the US.  He represents a different paradigm for corporate boards to consider. No longer is it enough to perform one's duty to the company's shareholders, and observe the law, but now there is the threat of public shaming via Tweets written by Trump.

The risk industry deals with uncertainty. It's why companies buy coverage. Certain types of uncertainty can famously be unavoidable like earthquakes and hurricanes. Other types of uncertainty like cyber-crime, fire and theft can be mitigated against.  Trump and Brexit however seem to represent a new type of uncertainty. It's an uncertainty that has been brought about by the voters which once unleashed seems to become like the proverbial genie let out of the bottle. What next?  Who knows?

One of Trump's biggest applause lines while campaigning (no, not "lock her up") was when he castigated US companies which had relocated overseas to obtain favorable tax treatment. There is a story this month about the billions in taxes saved by Google after it redomesticated to Ireland. You can be sure that Sergey Brin and Larry Page winced when they saw it as they know it could end up in Trump's crosshairs.

The global risk industry, reinsurance in particular, does have some exposure in this area. For American companies who have overseas tax arrangements you can understand the genetics of it. In the US the McCarran-Ferguson Act mandates that insurers are regulated largely by the states on a state-by-state basis. Setting up another subsidiary in an overseas jurisdiction would be second nature to a large US insurer that may already have 20 or 30 US subsidiaries in place for regulatory purposes. From that point it's not too hard to envisage the response of a Board to a tax proposal suggesting the anointing of an overseas subsidiary as the corporate parent if many millions of dollars in tax liability could be legally avoided. In this new era of Trump, jurisdictions like Bermuda are getting nervous. 

The tax issue is just one uncertainty. The "old standbys" in the uncertainty game for reinsurance still remain including; deteriorating premium rates, low interest rates and too much capacity. Add in Brexit, accelerating climate change and uncertainty from Washington and you can sense management of insurers beginning to wonder if they should soon hope for "divine intervention" as another possible risk to consider. 

Some insurers have elected a way out of the increasing maze of uncertainty and try to minimize risk. We've seen that this month with legacy transfers by both The Hartford and AIG. In both cases it was Berkshire Hathaway's National Indemnity Company that was able to assume large scale exposure in exchange for a hefty premium. But for The Hartford and AIG, it was a way to reduce some of the uncertainty they face and to once and for all draw a line under certain business.  Boards act in the best interests of their shareholders and, even if paying a high premium, it was decided that the shareholders would best benefit by ridding themselves of some measure of uncertainty.

We noted ProGlobal's Artur Niemczewski observe that the run off market is gearing up for a surge in new business as the UK prepares to leave the EU.  There is that "uncertainty" again --some will act and some won't.

An observer has to wonder, though, when will too much become too much?   Natural CAT losses are creeping up; brokers report that premium rates are still falling; interest rates are still low; reserve releases are reportedly all but exhausted and the influx of new capital has reportedly wreaked havoc with expansion of terms and conditions and weakening of underwriting discipline.  These issues, which just months ago, were viewed as near crisis conditions, have attained nearly "business as usual" status in the face of the uncertainty stemming from Brexit and the US election.  When you start seeing articles about the effect of political and macro risk in the US insurance markets you have to begin to wonder.

India opens reinsurance market to outsiders

Hundreds of delegates attended the tenth annual India Rendezvous for reinsurance in Mumbai. The event, from January 18-20, featured a keynote address from Scor's Denis Kessler.  India is a very hot market right now for the reinsurance industry. The country, with its 1.25 billion people and English as one of its official languages, has suddenly become the focus of the industry.

The India reinsurance market has recently been able to expand to allow the entry of foreign reinsurers and there have been a spate of stories about major reinsurers entering the Indian market.  India, along with Southeast Asia, represent part of those long-hoped for pools of potential new premium for the global reinsurance industry.  The theme of the conference was "Finding the ideal Reinsurance partner", which is now a major thrust of the Indian insurance market as the government has liberalized the reinsurance market to allow entry of foreign reinsurers.

CATEX attended the Mumbai conference and can report that many dozens of Indian reinsurance brokers were present making presentations to the many foreign insurers set up at meeting tables or hotel suites. 

CATEX discussed its Pivot Point reinsurance transaction application and its Data Vera data cleansing and validation tool with dozens of brokers and reinsurers. The potential size of the Indian market will make this rendezvous even more important in the future.  

Rates continue to drop but profits remain adequate

The ongoing theme of declining premium rates as evidenced by the January 1 renewals was again in the news this month. According to an analyst from Bernstein the continued rate softening at 1.1 suggests that reinsurers are no longer covering their cost of capital. Thomas Seidl referenced renewal reports from the Big 3 reinsurance brokers and said that non-proportional P&C reinsurance rates declined by an average of 6% for the January placements.  Guy Carpenter noted that property CAT premiums declined by 7%, an improvement from the 2016 renewals which saw declines as much as 12%. 

This is all bad news, right?  Maybe. Here's a quote from James Vickers, chairman of Willis Re International: "The market is trying to stabilize but it hasn't yet, primarily because it's making too much money." To put Vickers' quote in context the first sentence in Adam McNestrie's Insurance Insider article is "Reinsurers will have to suffer a period of real pain before they can expect a stabilization in pricing and, ultimately, an increase."

What Vickers notes is of interest. He said that "There is a disconnect now between the adequacy of original pricing against the reality of results. Everyone is struggling with what's coming out of their pricing models."  McNestrie continued in the article writing "modelled pricing adequacy is severely challenged, with the industry increasingly reliant on gravity-defying reserve releases and below average claims activity to deliver acceptable results."

Reinsurance is a relationship business. What Vickers seems to be observing is that "until reinsurers can actually produce headline numbers that show they're losing money, or that returns on equity are collapsing" they won't achieve rate increases.  Cedents and brokers are well aware of the financial condition of each reinsurer with which they place business. Apparently an underwriter is in a weak position to negotiate a premium increase if his or her market is "not losing money."

This observation is hardly a news bulletin but the comment about the "modelled pricing adequacy" being severely challenged did attract our attention.  We know from experience how savvy underwriters are with the slightest of nuances in respective models.  We also know from experience that underwriters are quite capable of representing their positions to a broker or client about specific concerns they may have about a modelled result and why they require a certain premium which may be above what the broker's model interpretation is calling for.  This is basic negotiation and also the precise point when so-called "underwriting discipline" comes into play.  

If an underwriter believes that the modelled price remains "severely challenged" by factors not considered by the model he or she can choose not to write the business.  First, though, there is that checklist. How important is the client? How important is the relationship with the broker? Can the risk be underwritten even at the "severely challenged" modelled premium result if there are known "margins" extant in your company's aggregate book?  Is the relationship with the cedent important enough to underwrite the risk and use part of that margin, which in itself is only "presumed" and not guaranteed.

Underwriter discipline isn't easy. According to Vickers "If we have another year of very modest losses to the reinsurance industry, anemic but not disastrous investment results and a little bit of reserve release, the industry will bumble over for 2017 still making money."

Bernstein's Seidl estimates that reinsurers will deliver an underlying return on equity of between 7 and 8 percent in 2017. Although, says Seidl, this result suggests reinsurers are no longer covering their cost of capital " This is still far from a pain threshold --which in the past has been about 4 percent RoE--which might lead to an inflection in pricing."

It is a bit counter-intuitive isn't it?  In this case the industry, absent substantial claims which they will be required to pay, believes it can't achieve an inflection in pricing unless there are substantial claims.  So the role of the reinsurer is to remain prepared for those substantial losses so it can benefit from the following uplift in premium prices.

A.M Best had an observation this month about reinsurers being "prepared": "The solid players will be those that have been conservative in underwriting and reserving, have been able to develop a book of business that will remain relevant for today's market and allows for quick shifts in and out of lines of business depending on market conditions, as well as companies that have created expertise in managing third party capital to their own advantage."

Thus one way for reinsurers to remain "prepared" and contribute to RoE seems to be cycle management of ILS.   According to A.M Best alternative capital comprises about "20% of the dedicated global reinsurance market capacity." Best notes that the growth of alternative capital, while it has had many effects, has also afforded reinsurers a significant weapon to actively manage risk and pricing cycles.  Best notes that the growth of alternative capital "underscores why cycle management has been a key strategy for organizations possessing the capability to move between primary and reinsurance platforms."

As Steve Evans in Artemis observes "The ability to switch capacity from reinsurance into primary lines of insurance, or to divert capacity into different lines of reinsurance where alternative capital and ILS is not so prevalent, helps the larger reinsurers to better navigate the softened market environment."  Because the cost of alternative capital is lower than traditional capital a reinsurer might be able to look at those "severely challenged" model results referred to by Adam McNestrie and begin to see them as attractive.

The reinsurance industry is much more adaptable than generally credited. We've been writing this newsletter for six years and many earlier stories cited the concerns and criticisms of reinsurers as they looked at alternative capital. It seems, though, as if many reinsurers have managed to not only peacefully co-exist with alternative capital but to be among the most proficient users of it.  We're not surprised. 

AIG buys peace of mind from Ajit Jain

The American baseball player Yogi Berra supposedly said that "It gets late early around here."  We're not quite sure what that means but we thought about it when we saw the two deals Berkshire Hathaway did with The Hartford and AIG respectively.  

The biggest deal by far is the legacy reinsurance transaction  between Berkshire's National Indemnity Company and AIG.  In exchange for about $9.8 billion in premium, which will be paid in full by June 30th, National Indemnity is assuming 80% of both the net losses and net allocated LAE that will attach at a layer of $25 billion. AIG has carried subject reserves of $34billion in place against claims from the policies which will be maintained for its own 100% share of the initial $25 billion of claims and its 20% share of future claims.  The Nico responsibility is 80% of the net losses and LAE in excess of $25 billion with a limit on its own payouts capped at $20 billion.  

By our math this means that if AIG is spot on in its reserving, and claims don't exceed the     $34 billion against which it's reserved, then Nico could be on the hook for 80% of $9 billion or $7.2 billion.  The premium, as noted is about $9.8 billion (it could be higher as there is a 4% interest rate on premiums not paid by the mandatory June 30th deadline) so it would seem that Nico would see a net gain of at least $2.6 billion. 

However, in the worst case scenario, if Nico begins to pay 80% at the $25 billion claims level claims could increase to $50 billion for Nico to exhaust its $20 billion limit having paid 80% of the $25 billion in claims from its $25 billion attachment point to its limit which would be reached at $50 billion. 

AIG believes that $34 billion should cover the claims but the desire for certainty again is here. If AIG is off on its reserving by what would be a 47% underestimate, and the eventual total comes to $50 billion instead of $34 billion, then you can see why AIG's Peter Hancock did the deal.  If claims did reach $50 billion AIG would be out the whole amount.
However, with the Nico arrangement AIG is out the first $25 billion in claims it continues to be responsible for; the $9.8 billion premium to Nico and its own 20% share of the layer from $25 billion to $50 billion or $5 billion. That potential liability, if claims reach the $50 billion level, under the reinsurance arrangement will "only" cost AIG $39.8 billion.  Without the reinsurance deal in place AIG would be on the hook for $50 billion assuming that Nico limit would have been reached.

The book Nico is taking on is substantially all of AIG's US commercial long-tail exposures for accident years 2015 and prior and supposedly includes the largest part of AIG's US casualty exposure during the period 2015 and earlier. According to the most complete article about the deal we've read --co-authored by  Leslie Scism in the Wall Street Journal, the deal includes product lines such as workers comp, D&O liability, PI, med mal, commercial auto liability and other liability policies.  According to the Journal "AIG is protecting itself in case its US liability claims will exceed the $34 billion, the amount it has set aside for payouts covered by the transaction."

Estimates are that it will be years before that $25 billion limit is reached --some estimates are as long as ten years--which will trigger Nico's reimbursement to AIG of 80% of the claims and LAE up to its own $20 billion payout cap --or $50 billion in total claims. That's a long time for National Indemnity to have that $9.8 billion premium.  Since 2005 National Indemnity has averaged a 6% investment return. If Nico maintained that 6% return in ten years the AIG premium would be worth $17.5 billion.  The math continues to work in Berkshire's favor as the length of time it would take to settle and pay the claims included in the $25 billion to $50 billion layer (another ten years?) would only produce more investment return on the admittedly shrinking premium principal amount.  

Even in a worst case $50 billion claim scenario which blows through the reserves by 47% it would seem that Ajit Jain and Nico are well positioned.  As for AIG, certainly prudent reserving left them comfortable with their $34 billion set aside but paying the $9.8 billion in premium to reduce their exposure by 80% on claims exceeding that amount has them breathing easier.  Risks and uncertainties as we have seen are inbound from areas outside the normal course of business.  This is one less thing for them to worry about.

Berkshire of course is well familiar with run off deals having agreed to a $14 billion limit when it accepted $7 billion in premium for the transfer of Lloyd's pre-1993 liabilities when the assets of Equitas were transferred to it in 2006.  Presumably that kind of experience allowed Berkshire to quickly ascertain the validity of that $34 billion AIG had set aside and conclude that it was an adequate amount. Still, per the Journal article, the deal came together fairly quickly, consummated with a lunch between Warren Buffett and Peter Hancock.  As has been reported in the press there supposedly had been friction between AIG and Berkshire since Berkshire hired AIG executives to start-up its own Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

The deal with The Hartford, just earlier this month, saw Nico provide $1.5 billion of reinsurance for certain legacy asbestos and environmental liability exposures above estimated loss reserves of $1.7 billion. The premium The Hartford paid for that additional $1.5 billion in protection was $650 million.

We saw this piece from The Motley Fool summarizing the 5 Operating Principles behind Berkshire Hathaway's Reinsurance business. It's worth reading.

Reinsurance in the sports and entertainment pages

How often do the eyes of your friends and relatives glaze over when you discuss reinsurance with them?  It seems to happen to us frequently.  Here are two real world examples of reinsurance in action that may prevent those furtive glances over your shoulder cast by your conversational partner at your next non-industry cocktail party.

Prince Fielder was a baseball player in the United States. He was a pretty good hitter and had 319 home runs during his career. He was fairly recognizable as he was 6 feet tall and weighed 275 pounds. He claimed to be a strict vegetarian which we do not dispute.

Fielder was well paid to play baseball and earned nearly $24 million annually. He  signed a $214 million, nine-year deal with the Detroit Tigers before the 2012 season. Before you grab your calculator that breaks down to $23.77 million annually. The contract was, as most baseball contracts are, structured so as to conform with the annual salary caps most teams adhere to. This means it's usually front-loaded or back-loaded depending upon how much money the team is planning to pay the other 24 players on the club.

The story gets a little convoluted from here --Prince was traded by the Tigers to the Texas Rangers but Detroit agreed to continue to pay $6 million of his annual salary while the Rangers paid the balance. And, yes, the two teams play each other about 10 times a year so Fielder would be competing against a team that was paying him about $120,000 a week.

You can guess where this is headed. Major League baseball contracts in the US are guaranteed. This means that teams will take out insurance in the event the player is injured and cannot play. Prince Fielder was forced to retire from baseball last August after two separate operations on his spine.  

There is about $96 million owed to Fielder over the next 4 years and you can be sure he will receive every penny of it. The Major League Baseball Players Association has brought "America's pastime" to a screeching halt in the past with work stoppages and is one of the strongest labor unions in the country.

Here is the insurance angle. Apparently the personal accident market in London is bracing itself for a $35 million permanent total disablement claim from the Texas Rangers following Fielder's injury-forced retirement.   Tokio Marine HCC is believed to have retained a part of the risk but Guy Carpenter apparently placed the majority of the risk in London via a broadly shared facultative quota share.

It's also understood that about half of the remaining $72 million owed Fielder by the Texas Rangers is insured as well.  No details yet on who is on that risk. As for the $6 million annually the Detroit Tigers still owe Fielder for the next 4 years there is no information available as to whether that liability is insured.

So much for baseball.  The death in December of actress Carrie Fisher from "Star Wars" fame --and author of the book "Postcards from the Edge" --has insurers at Lloyd's set "to pay out the market's biggest ever single personal accident insurance claim."

Fisher completed filming of the Disney Studios Star Wars Episode VIII before she died but will obviously be unavailable for a planned major role in Episode IX for which filming is planned later this year.  

Fisher returned to the Star Wars series last year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The movie took in over $2 billion at the box office so Disney prudently took out a $50 million contract protection cover in the event Fisher could not complete her obligations for Episode IX.

The policy was underwritten by MGA Exceptional Risk Advisers in New Jersey but the loss will be entirely borne by Lloyd's markets.  It has been reported that Atrium is the lead on the policy.
Insure-tech should remember motives of its youthful clients

Roger Crombie

My father drove Jaguars. He and his brother, in the 1950s and '60s, almost always had the latest models. I say 'almost' because they made a point of not buying a new car within a year of its introduction, so that any quirks or shortcomings would be ironed out before my Dad and Uncle Monty took to the roads.

Neither was an insurance man, although their caution might have made them excellent practitioners of the art. Fools buy Jags where wise men fear to tread, and all that.

Insurance came famously late to the Internet. Two reasons fuelled this logic: cost and risk. What else would one expect insurers to care about? I can recall visiting the offices of a top-three broker at about the time most of us were working with Windows 7, and finding them struggling along with 3.1.

When I asked why, it was suggested that I multiply the number of the company's employees by the cost of new software. Lots of zeroes on the end of that result.

But times change, and many insurers have changed with them. Most now operate extensively online, and use the services of companies such as CATEX to keep them protected and up to the minute. Or, perhaps more accurately, up to a few minutes ago.

Much of the non-insurance community seems to have thrown all caution to the wind in its embrace of the Internet, and most of them are wildly surprised when their most important asset, their data, is hacked or ransomed due to a lack of protection.

We have rushed to abandon our privacy in the name of connectivity. Utterly failing to understand the nature of the technology we are dealing with, we freely post naked selfies and screeds of our inner thoughts, and are surprised when such laxity proves our undoing.

Full disclosure requires me to tell you that I am not on social media. Virtually everyone else is, apparently. And the charge is being levelled that, in the personal lines arena, insurers' reluctance to jump into the electronic pool, or perhaps to wade in only at the shallow end, is costing them customers. In response to this perception, the race is on to build apps that will make insurance more user-friendly for those besotted with their small screens.

Andrew Brem is chief digital officer for Aviva. That the company employs a person in that role tells us something of how far insurers have come.

"Most of our industry is stuck in the stone age," Brem told The Times in January. (That's the newspaper referred to in error by everyone who is not British as The Times of London.) "Younger customers expect to manage, understand, and buy insurance while running their lives from their iPhones," Brem said. I'd take issue with the idea of younger customers understanding insurance. Most of them are unable to understand their socks, let alone the workings of financial institutions, but otherwise he has a point.

Brem's mission in life is to change all that. And not just him. The personal lines insurance industry has declared change to be its defining characteristic.

Brem, in his words, seeks to "disrupt our industry". He doesn't mean that. He just wants to make it easier for people to buy insurance. He and others in various corners of the sector are working hard to translate the complex world of insurance into easily-understood info-bites and emojis and all the short-hand paraphernalia of the hand-held device.

It's not entirely certain that he is bound to fail. Younger people are easily led, and if Brem and his counterparts in other companies can somehow find a way to make insurance 'cool', he will have done us all a service. Cooler, perhaps, would be a start.

I'd guess that most young people only buy cover when the law requires, such as motor insurance. Many youngsters think that they'll live forever, and that life has no consequences. Again, full disclosure: I was once a youngster and subconsciously believed both those things to be absolutely true. Now that I'm an oldster, I have learned about consequences, although I still plan to live forever.

New apps will no doubt make insurance easier to buy with a tap or two on a screen in the hand. Talk of disrupting the industry, however, seems overblown. Few 19-year-olds will ever value increasing their personal insurance over, say, a new outfit or a bucket of beer. The industry would be foolish to think otherwise.

Roger Crombie is an American Society of Business Publication Editors national award winner. An English chartered accountant who lives in  Eastbourne, on England's South Coast, he writes and broadcasts news and opinion in the US, UK, Bermuda and the Caribbean, in print and online. His main beat is insurance and financial services, with 30-year sidelines in music and humour. All views expressed in Roger's columns are exclusively his own. Contact Roger at

Copyright CATEX Reports
January 24, 2017
Quick Bytes

North Korea apparently routinely claimed large insurance payments based on non-existing losses supported by fabricated documents. This news, which has long been suspected, was confirmed by the highest ranking defector from the isolated country last week...An article in The New Yorker observed that the Mosul Dam in Iraq is not only falling apart but is a continued target of ISIS which wants to blow it up. As many as 1.5 million people could be killed if the 11 billion cubic meters of water the dam holds back is released... Only 10% of Japanese companies have earthquake insurance. Warren Buffett sees this as an opportunity as Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance is targeting a move into the market by providing reinsurance for earthquake coverage to Japanese insurers...The truck attack in Berlin targeting a Christmas market last month may have been cut short when the vehicle automatically deployed its brakes--the result of European Union regulations that require automatic braking systems on large trucks...The first direct train between China and London arrived in England last week after an 8,000 mile journey from the Chinese port city of Yiwu. The 34 carriage freight train carried millions of pounds worth of socks, cloth, bags and household goods...Enstar, the legacy run-off specialist, acquired a subsidiary of Dana, a US auto parts manufacturer, in a deal marking its first acquisition of a non-insurance business. The deal includes liabilities such as asbestos claims...Nature magazine featured an article suggesting the southern US coastline has a buffer zone that helps curb hurricanes under the right conditions. If the science is proven it could cause revisions to models...The Financial Times had an article indicating that the AIG-Nico deal has sparked concern from US lawyers fearing tougher negotiation conditions for liability claimant clients...A.M. Best believes there will be more mergers and acquisitions in the reinsurance sector in 2017...We've previously noted the growth of the M&A insurance sector. Toshiba announced it may have to book several billion dollars due to cost overruns at the construction of US nuclear power plants by its newly acquired business Chicago Bridge & Iron...The head of Dentsu, the largest advertising agency in Japan, resigned after the suicide of a young employee that has been linked to extreme overwork at the company. The phenomenon, "death by overwork" , or karoshi, is officially recognized by the Japanese government which regularly issues "overwork warnings" to Japanese companies as it seeks to eliminate the problem... 
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