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DUBLIN, Ireland-Despite the massive consolidation in the U.S. and global reinsurance markets of the past decade, there is still room for further acquisitions, according to reinsurer executives who spoke at a seminar last month.
However, these acquisitions will probably be driven more by investment bankers than for strategic reasons, they said.
Kaj Ahlmann, chairman and chief executive officer of Overland Park, Kan.-based Employers Reinsurance Corp., said shareholders demanding continued earnings growth is one of the factors that will be behind the continued drive for consolidation.
"Future acquisitions are likely to be limited to consolidating acquisitions between broker (market) reinsurers and major players acquiring specialized expertise," he said in an address to the biennial conference of the London Insurance & Reinsurance Market Assn.
Since 1989, the number of U.S. reinsurers has shrunk to 54 from 125, while the global market share of the top 10 reinsurers has grown to 45% in 1996 from 25% in 1984, Mr. Ahlmann said.
He added that winning reinsurers will be those that focus on designing special solutions for a wider array of client needs; that provide capital and administration to targeted distributors; use distribution channels better to sell more products; and continue expansion into servicing and administration.
Anders Hogstrom, managing director of Skandia International Insurance Corp., maintained that despite consolidation among the major players, there is still a role for the small- to medium-sized reinsurer.
"We believe that we have a great deal to offer ceding companies and brokers. As a strong multispecialty company, we can be an alternative to the composite giants. . . .We can be closer to the customer, and therefore make better underwriting decisions and be more efficient," Mr. Hogstrom said.
A representative of another of the smaller companies, Graham Dimmock, executive vp of Bermuda-based Partner Re Ltd., said he sees the future in companies that place an emphasis on new technology rather than new products.
The winners in the next millennium will be companies with sophisticated risk modeling capabilities, "companies that know at any point of the cycle how aggressively they can position themselves in terms of price and cover, and what input their reinsurance decisions will have on their shareholders' return," he said.
Mr. Dimmock also said that it is not just the very major players that are influencing trends in global markets. "With one possible exception, the price competition during the first-quarter renewal negotiations did not come heavily from the 'Big Four.' Prices were led down by Lloyd's syndicates and a few London companies offering only small shares relative to the lines offered by international markets."
Meanwhile, Michael Wade, chief executive of Lloyd's corporate capital vehicle CLM Insurance Fund Ltd., told the seminar attendees that the only way for Lloyd's to meet the competitive challenge is to scrap its system of allowing individual investors and to turn syndicates into corporate structures.
Lloyd's current system, whereby each syndicate is formed and then reconstituted for the next year after agreeing on its reinsurance to close, is too complicated, too restricting and too expensive, said Mr. Wade. Lloyd's should continue the shift toward corporate capital-which in 1994 provided 15% of Lloyd's capacity and in 1997 is providing 44% of capital.
The most fundamental change needed is to replace syndicates with companies that bring together the managing agency and the capital provider. Not only would this eliminate an outdated structure, but it also would provide an opportunity to shed huge amounts of regulation as the market becomes more conventional in its makeup, Mr. Wade said.