Magazine article Risk Management

Visions of the Future

Magazine article Risk Management

Visions of the Future

Article excerpt

In this era of tumultuous change, there is an opportunity for

tremendous growth as well as the potential for severe loss. Never before has it been so crucial to keep abreast of industry changes. Here, top executives of cutting-edge companies share their insights, strategies for success and predictions for the future.

FACING THE CHALLENGE

A strong client orientation, organizational flexibility, global reach and the use of technology to support strategic objectives: these are changing rapidly from competitive advantages to basic necessities in today's business climate, says Robert Lippincott III, chairman, president and CEO of AXA Re U.S. "Our clients are expanding internationally, and they are demanding a greater range of more sophisticated services from providers able to meet their needs on demand.

"We've become more service-oriented in trying to meet the specific needs of our clients," Mr. Lippincott says. "We can't just dictate the template coverages that we're willing to provide. We have to be cognizant of our clients' needs and tailor a reinsurance product to meet their underwriting, security and capacity needs. We're seeing a transition to becoming full-service companies."

Part of that increased service imperative stems from insurance carriers looking to expand their underwriting capacity, market share and catastrophe protection by obtaining additional capital from the financial markets. The reinsurance industry is adapting to this evolution by positioning itself as a conduit into the capital markets.

"There's a changing viewpoint of reinsurance in the client's eye. They're asking us not only to provide the traditional level of security, but also to provide additional capacity. That's been the driving trend in our industry over the past few years, and it's becoming the mainstay," Mr. Lippincott says.

"Clients and brokers are becoming more sophisticated, and they're looking for more than security. We have to provide a greater range of ancillary services such as actuarial, claims, tax and accounting, in addition to underwriting. We need an organization of professionals that can service an account fully and be flexible enough to design a reinsurance program that meets a company's specific needs. And we have to do all of this on a global basis.

"A lot of people have talked about globalization before, but now it's becoming a client expectation. If a client has risks everywhere in the world, and you want to service those risks, you have to be able to provide capacity no matter where the risk is. With our facultative property operations, any one of our offices can tap our full $60 million capacity for a risk.

"Technology has enabled us to become a global company," Mr. Lippincott continues."We have video conferencing facilities in each of our reinsurance offices, and that not only saves time and effort, it also allows us to communicate and exchange documents anywhere in the world. The technology is not really recent, but the cost has declined and the need to exchange information worldwide has grown tremendously."

The technological innovations in the insurance industry can serve as a microcosm of the global business community, Mr. Lippincott believes. "When I started in insurance, our department shared a single calculator. Now we have real-time information available on every desktop. We receive underwriting submissions on disk, and I don't think it will take too long before we're able to exchange data and submissions completely electronically. …

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