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Welcome to our Monthly Newsletter – November 2008

An Established and Successful Force in International Insurance

Worldwide Risk Solutions is a U.K. based commercial organisation which has the sole objective of facilitating global business strategies and business development in the international insurance industry. For more information about us, please go to www.worldwiderisksolutions.com.

What Is Going On Out There?

The past several weeks have pretty well turned the financial world upside down with icons floundering in uncertainty. Even now, the long term effect of banks and insurance groups having to be bailed out, governments stepping in - often as team-mates - is difficult to gauge. Some people are saying that the worst is to come; others are prophesying years of belt-tightening. We will devote an article to some of the aspects of international business behaviour which should not change whatever happens. As usual, however, every month there is an acquisition, a market entry, a new joint venture, something new locally, somewhere in the insurance world. We keep you abreast of these developments through our Talks Around the Bazaar.

We will return with a Spotlight article next month and look forward to your feedback on these articles. If you have any comments or questions on the items discussed, please let us know. Also, if you would like to discuss your international strategies with us, please contact us. Details are below.

Comment

International Business Behaviour

People say that the Civil Service or the Administration runs the country in accordance with the rules set out by Parliament. Because of its majority in Parliament, the Government usually calls the shots as regards new legislation in an attempt to guide the country in a direction deemed best for the people and for business. The courts interpret the laws in accordance with what is fair and when there is no solution enshrined in legislation, the courts, like those in the U.K. set precedents which may be changed by new laws going forward. There is not generally a close and direct link between the maker/enforcer of the rules and the rules themselves.

In the world of business it seems far less detached. This is because of the profit element. Commercial organisations strive to earn more money than they spend and if the money runs out, they cannot just pop down to the local mint and make more; they go bust. However, as we have now seen with government bail outs, there is an alternative solution: (part) nationalisation. There has been a lot of talk about what it costs to shore up companies in order to protect the man on street, and as regards the service industries in trouble, such as insurance companies, there have only been superficial guarantees of continuity to staff and customers.

This could affect morale and here we see a distinguishing feature between government departments and commercial organisations: service.  If say, you are not happy with the time it takes to re-issue a driving licence, you cannot go to another council office and seek better service. One of the criteria upheld by savvy insurance buyers is the speed with which insurance documents and answers to questions are handled accurately. This results in competitive advantages and enhanced reputations. A fall in employee enthusiasm could impact such an advantage negatively and cause companies to lose clients.  It will therefore be interesting to see if qualities like efficiency, service, customer focus, going the extra mile and more will suffer if government bureaucrats start putting the knife into seemingly costly commercial systems and procedures.

We believe, however, that the self-deprecating insurance industry will not only withstand the trials and tribulations of recession but come out leaner and nimbler. The reason is that the motivating factors amongst the professionals in our industry will remain unchanged.

Here are some of the main ones:

Service

Service is aimed at getting customers and keeping them. A high retention ratio helps keep acquisition costs in check. Clear lines of communication, short response times, accurate answers, correct and proper documentation, thoughtful suggestions and recommendations figure among the criteria for client satisfaction. It is not only the promise to pay from an insurance company, or the broker’s negotiating skills in securing the best deal for the client which keeps clients. It is also the maintenance of the customer’s confidence that the brokers and the carriers are happy to be the customer’s service provider and are continually looking out for the customer’s interest which clients are looking for.

Loyalty

Loyalty in the business world is not just staying with carrier X when their premiums go up; that could just simply be laziness in not bothering to look elsewhere. Taking the trouble to do more than the minimum, checking for mistakes (more than once), picking up the telephone to explain something rather than firing off an impersonal letter, anticipating a client’s needs and preparing a solution before they ask for one are examples of a pro-active approach which makes the client think: “it will take a lot for me to move away from these guys.” Similarly, carriers who do not try and squeeze the last penny in premium out of a client, who do not quibble about unimportant issues during claims settlements show that they value the relationship and do not wish to jeopardise it. It is also a two way street and customers who are well informed about market trends and developments and who have been receiving more than adequate service and value the relationship with their service providers are not likely to seek the smallest glitch as an excuse to jump ship.

Hard Work

How do you define hard work: doing something you don’t really want to do, getting physically exhausted, becoming exasperated and frustrated, having to miss out on some fun because of the tasks to be carried out, having to choose between taking the easy way out and regretting it later versus taking the trouble to do something properly first time round? Financial services is not back-breaking and so to a great extent it is all in the mind. Thinking positively helps, for example, when a confronted with a difficult task: imagine the rewards when it has been done, properly, to the client’s satisfaction, your colleagues’ recognition, and your own feelings of contentment. Those people who smugly contend that if you think smart you don’t have to work hard actually do work hard because some of the definitions above also apply to them…

Commitment

There is a difference between involved and committed (as we all know from the chicken/egg and pig/bacon story). Those who are easily distracted from doing the job properly are likely to prove unreliable when the chips are down. If coming in a bit earlier or staying a little later are what some people are unable to bring themselves to do, or taking a shorter lunch break when confronted with time-frames, then you have a recipe for mediocrity. Such an attitude will allow others to overtake you and get to attract and keep the clients we all prefer to have. A client who knows that their service provider is committed to providing excellence in its services will be more loyal to that provider than to one who does not really appear to be interested in what the clients needs and wants.

Determination

Following on from the Hard Work principle, one must be determined to achieve the goals and objectives which signal success. Plotting out the steps to be taken, the resources to be utilised, touching base with the client, working with other team-players requires energy and determination. Two things are very important in maintaining the right level of determination to get the job done: 1) making sure that the set goals and objectives are still what are required and what the client wants - fine-tuning them where necessary 2) retaining the confidence that whoever measures your performance has the experience and understanding of the challenges involved and is able to provide constructive criticism and support.

Respect

Years ago people used to stay with one employer for life. Nowadays career hopping is seen as a necessary way of gaining experience and being able to look at various aspects of our industry as a true professional. In the olden days many company people would talk impolitely about brokers and broker people would talk derisively about company people. This displays a lack of respect based upon the unknowns and although to a much lesser extent it still continues, there is a huge amount of respect and trust in the main markets around the world. Taking London as an example, market leaders, innovators, calculating risk takers, thoughtful advisers, new players, etc are all continually being talked about as part of the business scene. Relationships flourish and characters and personalities are well-known. All markets, be that the Amsterdam Bourse players, the Chicago mega-broking community, the Hamburg general and marine brokers, the Singapore insurance society and now the Shanghai insurance professionals, none of them can work without confidence in the ethics and integrity of their fellows and the respect with which they handle business together.

Patience

Because insurance is an intangible product, it not always easy to see how long some projects will take before they are completed. Not only do we mean large and complex enquiries but also commodity business. Almost everyday, new systems and procedures are devised in order to speed up the production of household policies, inspection reports, small claims, etc and this can sometimes mean that there is an element of trial and error. New business projects, especially complex commercial and industrial risks, not only need a lot of technical underwriting information and understanding of procedures, risk exposures, consequences of hypothetical but realistic situations, etc but also players with underwriting capacity and whose portfolio does not suffer from accumulation potential, whose guidelines provide flexibility to think up creative solutions and who are willing to work with brokers and advisers and to devote the time to come up with a product or programme which complies with the client’s needs and expectations.

Compassion

Insurance is a people’s business and good relationships help shape the platform for success. There is no room for vindictiveness in a profession based on trust, good faith and a handshake. On the contrary, the interest shown by those for whom insurance has become a career, in the fate and fortunes of their peers and contemporaries is a unifying trait, a characteristic which is readily apparent during travel around the globe.

While the term “old boys’ network” may conjure up negative feelings about nepotism and corruption, for those whose fortunes have taken a dip, there are always friends out there who will give up time to help you think up a plan to get out of a hole or a rut and to orchestrate a satisfying and rewarding career move. People are always willing to listen, share their experiences, make suggestions to help their friends – and this is not just because one day the shoe could be on the other foot…

In preparing this COMMENT article we have met and talked to leading professionals in England, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the United States and elsewhere and we are grateful for their time and input.

If you would like Worldwide Risk Solutions to conduct an economic, business and insurance survey of any international markets please contact us – Details below.

Worldwide Risk Solutions has access to a wide client base of internationally oriented organisations. Why not utilise this knowledge and experience? We can conduct a swift appraisal of your global activities or answer any questions you may have about international developments. Call +44 (0)1444 450 919 or send us an e-mail and we will respond immediately. And should you be passing through London, please let us know.

In our next e-newsletter we will again feature a Spotlight article - on AndorraIs it part of Spain; is it part of France; is it another name for the Basque country? Is there anything special about the insurance market there? We will take a look at what happens there, the legislation and local practices.

For more information about any of the items discussed in the current or previous issues of WoRdS, please see our Contact Details

George Worsley, Director
Worldwide Risk Solutions
Telephone +44 (0)1444 450 919 Mobile: +44 (0)7968 191 511
E-mail info@worldwiderisksolutions.com

Talk Around the Bazaar

  • There are still many stories of large financial institutions seeking government help. In some countries carriers are denying that they need help – it may convince insiders more than outsiders and it is a pity that it would be the shareholders and not the executive management who would suffer if the AIG syndrome hit them. Amongst the many sources of the latest news and comment are, www.ft.com http://online.wsj.com/public/us and www.businessinsurance.com
  • Vietnam is the latest country to enforce motor insurance as a compulsory class. For the full story, see http://english.vietnamnet.vn/biz/2008/09/806317/
  • The Lloyd’s underwriter Amlin is to acquire Financière Europe Assurance which is the holding company of Anglo French Underwriters SAS (AFU). This is another step in Lloyd’s increased focus on continental European business. For more about the strategy and execution, see Market Continues To_Enhance European Presence
  • Apparently in New Zealand, people over age 65 who are still active in the workplace sustain more work-related injuries than any other age group. Now there’s another incentive to retire! For further insights, see www.isn-inc.com/news/news.aspx?nid=54&cid=2
  • Romania is likely to impose mandatory home insurance against flood, earthquake and landslides.  A new law is slated to come into effect in July 2007
  • The International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) is seeking a more global role as it encourages greater cooperation and coordination of their efforts amongst its members. At the same time China, Japan and South Korea are in talks to create an Asian Financial Stability Body. Chile is saying that the same rules cannot be applied willy nilly to all member countries. A note from ISN tells us that IAIS was established in 1994 and represents insurance regulators and supervisors of some 190 jurisdictions in nearly 140 countries, constituting 97% of the world's insurance premiums. For more, see www.iais.org
  • In Europe, Risk Managers are saying that the current financial crisis underlines the need for Solvency II in order to achieve pan-European insurance regulation. For a good article, see the report on the CRO Forum, www.businessinsurance.com
  • The city of Zürich believes it is challenging Bermuda as an international insurance centre. It has always been an international financial centre but the thought of Gnomes running around in Bermuda shorts in the winter… well?! For more about this charming city, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z%C3%BCrich
  • News from the Baden Baden reinsurance gathering is that coinsurance/subscription may well become an even more popular way to access capital and capacity in the major reinsurance markets around the world. The European Commission would do well to listen to how market leaders wish to lay out their playing field
  • Insurance companies and other financial institutions in China which have foreign currency exposures will have to submit monthly reports to the supervisory authorities in an attempt to prevent the worldwide crisis from affecting their liquidity. Further details will be posted on the CIRC website in due course, China Insurance Regulatory Commission
  • Breaking news: reports are coming through of a proposed merger between the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) and the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF). The website, www.institutemerger.com will have more news as it becomes available
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    We are currently discussing projects in the following markets and are regularly being asked to attend the annual conferences and meetings of the major networks:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Kingdom
  • U.S.A.
  • Vietnam
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    We continue to work with a growing number of networks to improve and expand their international capabilities.  If you have not already spoken to us about expanding your international markets, now might be the right time for us to conduct a feasibility study. For more information, please see the contact details below.

    What Clients Say

    “Their knowledge, experience and expertise make them a rare and very welcome part of the international scene”

    “Worldwide Risk Solutions have the sort of contacts we need to continue the growth of our international business”

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    CONTACT US

    BY POST
    Worldwide Risk Solutions LLP
    20 Blunts Wood Road
    Haywards Heath
    West Sussex
    RH16 1NB, England

    BY TELEPHONE
    Telephone: +44 (0)1444 450 919
    Mobile: +44 (0)7968 191 511

    BY E-MAIL
    info@worldwiderisksolutions.com

    BY SKYPE
    Skype Name: georgeworsley

    Disclaimer
    Information appearing in WoRdS is checked for technical accuracy but is not intended to provide a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Worldwide Risk Solutions accepts no responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material included in this newsletter.