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MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Reinsurance industry executives continue to flock to Monaco during the first week of September to see and be seen.

Official attendance at the 1998 meeting was 2,322, down just one from 2,323 in 1997. However, because many industry executives attend but do not formally register, the actual number of reinsurance executives in Monte Carlo from Sept. 7-11 may be dozens higher.

Next year, the number of attendees could drop further due to consolidation in the industry, predicted Antoine Jeancourt-Galignani, chairman of Assurances Generales de France in Paris and president of the Rendez-Vous.

In particular, he said, the various brokers that have bought out rivals over the past two years will fully consolidate their operations and likely send fewer representatives to the meeting.

The number of countries represented in Monte Carlo fell to 76 from 83 last year. The United Kingdom, as it did last year, sent the largest contingent, followed by France, the United States, Italy, and Germany.

The Rendez-Vous de Septembre is the traditional beginning of year-end reinsurance renewal negotiations. The week-long event offers executives ample opportunity to determine which way the winds are blowing for the industry, to meet with colleagues and peers and to publicly display recent changes in organizations.

"It's important to be here, because in the past 18 months, we've made a major commitment to the European reinsurance market," said Patrick Ryan, chairman and chief executive officer of Aon Corp. of Chicago, attending his first Rendez-Vous de Septembre. "We wanted these companies to know more about Aon, because we really view ourselves as a global company," Mr. Ryan said.

One of X.L. Mid Ocean Reinsurance Co. Ltd.'s objectives for attending the Rendez-Vous de Septembre in Monte Carlo is to show that the merger of the company is complete and working well, said Michael A. Butt, a director of X.L. Mid Ocean Reinsurance Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda.

The ability to spend quality time with other industry executives during the Rendez-Vous also is attractive, said Brian M. O'Hara, chairman and chief executive officer of X.L. Insurance Co. Ltd. in Hamilton, Bermuda. Even among executives on the island of Bermuda, many often are too busy to meet and talk at home, he noted.

Chartwell Re Corp.'s top executives come to the Rendez-Vous to discuss the reinsurer's evolution as an organization and because of its increased emphasis on international business, said Steven J. Bensinger, president of the Stamford, Conn.-based reinsurer.

"With current market dynamics and a desire to improve one's situation, the meeting offers a chance to discuss with other reinsurers how to improve. There's a lot of intellectual capital, and ideas to synthesize" at the Rendez-Vous, Mr. Bensinger said.

In addition to frequent meetings, cocktail receptions and dinners, the Rendez-Vous also features presentations.

Usually, the Tuesday-morning presentations are made by leading figures in the insurance and reinsurance industry. However, this year a fresh approach was taken. The three winners of an essay competition for people under 35, sponsored by the Rendez-Vous organizing committee, presented their winning papers. The competition drew about 15 entries.

The first presentation was made by Marjol Nikkels, a director of Sensio Konsult in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. She spoke about the opportunities arising for insurers out of the privatization of the social security system in the Netherlands.

Currently, insurers concentrate too much on products and policies and not enough on services, Ms. Nikkels said.

"If the insurance companies are unable to give a concrete expression to those services, they will find themselves playing second fiddle to the employers," he said.

The second paper was presented by Philippe Francois, head of the plan-budget-resultat department. of AXA Reassurance in Paris. He presented an approach to reinsurance portfolio management that he developed with a colleague.

The approach provides a mathematical tool to be used in conjunction with an underwriter's experience and intuition in assessing reinsurance portfolios, he said.

The final paper was presented by Nicholas Smith, associate director of Crosby Asset Management (Hong Kong) Ltd. Mr. Smith spoke about insurance opportunities in Asia.

Despite the recent economic crisis in the region, there is still a huge potential for insurers seeking to operate in Asia, he said.

A combination of demographics, increasing economic sophistication of individuals, and regulatory reforms in the region will provide opportunities for insurers, Mr. Smith said.

Next year the formal presentations will revert to the traditional format, and senior executives will speak about new technology.

The 1999 Rendez-Vous de Septembre will be held Sept. 6-10.

For more information or to register, contact the Rendez-Vous de Septembre, Centre de Congres Auditorium de Monaco, Boulevard Louis II, Monte Carlo 98000, Monaco; 377-9216-6050; fax: 377-9216-6135.