Category Archives: Alternative Risk Transfer (ART)

Financing Catastrophes

Yesterday we cited projections of increasing catastrophe losses in years to come along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, so today we turn our attention to the topic of how to finance catastrophic risk. Historically the capacity to finance such risk was limited to the traditional re/insurance markets, or to self-insurance and pooling. Now insurers can diversify their risk and expand the availability of insurance in cat-prone areas by tapping into the capital markets. An article by Michael Lewis in the New York Times magazine on Sunday August 26 focuses on this very topic and describes one well-known capital markets solution: catastrophe bonds. Catastrophe bonds developed in the wake of mega-cats Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki in 1992 and the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Since then, cat bonds have been used to cover a wide variety of exposures, with earthquakes (both U.S. and Japan) and U.S. hurricanes accounting for the majority of bond issues. Without question, the market for natural catastrophe bonds is growing. Guy Carpenter reports that annual issuance of cat bonds reached a record $4.69 billion in 2006, up 136 percent from $1.99 billion in 2005. The number of transactions completed also doubled to 20 in 2006, from 10 in 2005. However, despite recent gains, over the longer-term the dollar value and number of catastrophe securitization transactions is still modest in relation to global reinsurance capacity. Between 1997 and 2006, 89 catastrophe bonds  were completed, representing $15.35 billion in catastrophe bond issuance, relative to $330 billion in global reinsurance capacity. What do you think? Check out further I.I.I. info on reinsurance and alternative risk financing options.

Med Mal Alternatives

Two reports published yesterday by ratings agency A.M. Best on U.S. captives and risk retention groups (RRGs) point to continuing growth in these alternative market mechanisms, even amid soft market conditions. A number of trends are highlighted, but one interesting  nugget is that medical malpractice accounts for a significant portion of business for both captives and risk retention groups. According to the reports, medical malpractice continues to be the dominant line of business for domestic captives (close to 40 percent), while medical malpractice (claims made) accounted for 43 percent of RRG business in 2006. Which leads us to conclude that despite greater stability in the price of medical malpractice insurance and some improvement in the tort environment, doctors are not looking to return to the traditional market in a hurry. Check out I.I.I. updates on captives and alternative risk transfer mechanisms and on medical malpractice online.

Room For Growth

For traditional insurers looking to recapture some of the business lost to the alternative market, specifically the captive market, all bets are off.   Or at least the going may be getting tougher. Despite increased competition and soft pricing, growth in captive insurers remains strong, and a new study from Aon indicates there is room for further growth – substantial growth at that. According to Aon, contrary to popular belief, over half (53 percent) of the world’s top 1500 companies (G1500) do not currently own a captive. Regionally there is considerable room for captive growth. Even in a mature market like the U.S., captive ownership by G1500 companies is at just 42 percent. In markets like Asia that traditionally have not been extensive captive users, the percentages are lower. Only 14 percent of Japanese G1500 companies have a captive for example. Captives are the oldest form of alternative risk transfer vehicle, dating back to the 1950s. Direct access to reinsurance markets, tailored coverage, and greater control over claims are just some of the reasons why corporations form captives. Cost or lack of coverage in the traditional market is another. Check out I.I.I. info on captives and alternative risk transfer mechanisms online.

Hall of Famers

We’re delighted to report on the three insurance leaders announced by the International Insurance Society (IIS) as the 2007 winners of the Insurance Hall of Fame awards. Two of the three, Robert Clements and Frederic Reiss (1924-1993), are renowned as pioneers in the alternative risk transfer (ART) field. Mr. Clements, now chairman of insurance broker Integro as well as interim chairman and co-founder of post-Katrina Bermuda start-up Ironshore Insurance Ltd, is considered the father of the Bermuda insurance market where he led the development of ACE and XL. Frederic Reiss, founder of the International Risk Management Group, coined the term “captive insurer† and was the first person to popularize the insurance captive movement. In doing so he helped establish Bermuda as a center for captive domicile companies. Last but certainly not least, the third 2007 Hall of Fame inductee is Josà © Manuel Martà ­nez, chairman and chief executive officer of MAPFRE, Spain’s largest insurance group and now the largest non-life insurer in Latin America. During his tenure, MAPFRE evolved from a local market leader to a large international group. For further info, check out a recent presentation on the world  of captive insurance  from  I.I.I. president and chief economist Dr. Robert Hartwig. Also, the I.I.I.’s  International Fact Book.

ART Info

Alternative Risk Transfer (ART) market mechanisms cover 30 percent of the U.S. commercial insurance market, yet general understanding of them is limited. For anyone grappling with the concept, an I.I.I.-penned chapter in the recently published Handbook of International Insurance hopefully will shed some light. The chapter “An Overview of the Alternative Risk Transfer Market† explains that the concept of ART defies a precise definition in part because the broad range of risk products that can be defined as ART has expanded over time as product innovation continues. The chapter covers the major categories of ART solutions commonly found in the market today, including captives, self-insurance, risk retention groups, finite risk (re)insurance, catastrophe bonds and government programs. I.I.I. also has additional information on captives and other risk-financing options available online.