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BIE identifies the key trends for risk managers in 2007
At this time of the year board members are looking for predictions and forecasts and insurance and risk managers are not excluded from this annual game. We at BIE have, therefore, come up with a list of key "ins" and "outs" for 2007 that should prove useful as you prepare for the year ahead.
Energy crises: The world is running out of easily-accessible energy. European companies must secure power to survive and at a cost that enables them to compete with rival companies based in regions with much cheaper energy sources. Efforts to hedge and offset the risks involved must also be stepped up.
Globalization: The rise of China and India has pushed the international economic system onto a new phase of development. Trade barriers are now sufficiently low enough to merit the transfer of the means of production, as well as capital and labor from one distant nation to another at the drop of a hat. This has huge risk implications for any enterprise involved in this process, in terms of investment in plant, supply chain management, credit control and political and reputational risk. Expect labor and pressure groups to step up the pressure on companies and governments this year.
Competitive insurance markets: The hard market is gone, with plenty of capacity around that seeks decent risks. Expect international markets such as Bermuda and London to play a greater role in major European markets.
Retreat from risk: Vastly improved risk management practices within leading insurance--and particularly reinsurance companies--will accelerate the loss of "naive" capacity for buyers and increase pressure for state-backed and mutual solutions for difficult-to-cover areas. Expect a return of so-called alternative risk transfer solutions.
Transparency: The impact of former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer continues to be felt across the Atlantic. The United Kingdom's Financial Services Authority has embarked upon a root and branch clean-up campaign in the London market. Other European financial regulators are not sure about this Anglo-Saxon penchant for transparency but the inexorable spread of global capital will pile on the pressure to follow suit. Expect the EC to ask some awkward questions when it finally publishes its interim findings.
Underwriting discipline: Underwriters will find it increasingly easy to persuade bosses that xyz treasured account is worth bending the rules for. Pricing actuaries are once again going to find it difficult to match their professional instincts with competitive realities.
Contingent fees: Pressure from leading financial regulators such as the FSA and the EC's competition enquiry will ensure that the pressure is not relented. Expect the big brokers to take the lead.
Outsourcing: cheap labor locations outside of Europe are easy options. Short-term cost savings are usually offset by customer dissatisfaction, but the arrival of Romania and Bulgaria in the EU may offer interesting opportunities closer to home.
Credit ratings: Agencies enjoy their greatest power and influence when insurance markets are in trouble and buyers like to know which companies to avoid. Healthy results, relative absence of merger and acquisition activity, and acceptable investment conditions mean that the rating agencies will find it increasingly difficult to be noticed this year.
Discrimination in the workplace: The rulebook just keeps getting bigger and risk managers will spend more time in discussion with human resource and legal managers about how to deal with the rise of U.S.-style corporate correctness.