At the end of September, we came back from an unforgettable IIG International trip, which was in France this year. Now I believe it when they say it is the Ultimate Educational and Networking experience, it delivered this and more. It was an incredible learning experience, from a business perspective and it was an awesome networking opportunity. I now have first-hand experience of this immersive learning trip it and can recommend it knowing that it is a phenomenal learning experience. There were 30 delegates that went to France, representing a wide range of our industry experts in the form of reinsurers, insurers, brokers (retail and reinsurance), educational institutions, attorneys, and clients. Most people did not know each other at the start, but a lot of friendships and business relationships came out of it, and the post-trip engagements we now have tell a lot of good stories on this. Even more than a month later, the engagements still continue.
It was a first time in France for many of us. The first thing we noticed when we got into the airport and when we drove to the hotel was that everything in and around the airport to the construction cranes in the city is branded in the national colours, very patriotic indeed if this is something they do all the time J. One got the feeling that the French are proud of their country by just observing all the buildings that are clothed in the French national colors. Our tour guide, Djadja, as we affectionately called him, demonstrated deep knowledge of his country and he was very passionate about the country’s heritage; and his job. I suppose it is his job to know everything and to demonstrate passion, but it was great to experience someone who is truly passionate about what he does and who is an expert. The French all seemed to have a great respect for time and were disciplined about how they conducted work. The transport system is very efficient, with trains arriving and leaving on time, bicycles as a major mode of transport for office workers and even pedestrians seem to respect the rules of the road. We did a great deal of walking and familiarised ourselves with the train routes to move from one area to another.
In between the tight schedules, we got a chance to immerse ourselves in the culture, lifestyle, and culinary experiences. For the few nights, we stayed at the Hilton Opera in Paris, we had dinner on the boat at the Seine River, explored the Louvre Museum, and took countless selfies with one of the most emblematic portraits in the history of art, the Mona Lisa. We went on a spectacular ascent in a glass-walled lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower, 276m up with only the antennae above us and the city of Paris at our feet. We did a walking tour and went past The Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. We took the train to the Disney Land Paris and watched the Boks live (even though the result didn’t go our way, at that time). We went on a champagne tour at the House of GH Mumm and stopped at the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Reims. King Charles was in the area on the Saturday, the Arc Triomphe was abuzz and traffic was a nightmare. I think I can safely say considering the time constraints, that we did it all 😊
From a business visits perspective, based on first-hand experience, I will summarize my key learnings from each business we interacted with in order of our meetings:
- The team presented Scor’s perspectives of the economic and the financial environment as well as the reinsurance sector and major trends
- The discussion included IFRS17, the hard market (or price correcting), and major insurance risks where some of our lines appeared i.e., Cyber, PVT, Aviation, Credit risk, and of course civil unrest.
- They mentioned that cyber losses already far surpass NatCat losses and admitted that cyber is quite a challenging landscape on risk as not much past data exists to model it correctly.
- They also mentioned that secondary perils are gaining importance, which was a point Partner Re also raised.
- Ascoma have built their business in Africa for over 70 years, focusing on French-speaking territories, and have done well on that front
- Their development strategy is to focus their activities on the African continent.
- They are currently a big player in the healthcare space in a lot of the territories within which they operate
- The Howden presentation focused on their growth model, which is to grow Howden in each of the French regions by subject matter experts who run each of their regions as entrepreneurs. They emphasised the importance of hiring the right people who are fit for the culture of the business. They retain their key employees by offering them shares in the business. 37% of Howden employees are shareholders in the business.
- Their strategy is to grow by acquiring niche, specialty businesses and they hire experts with strong networks in the industry.
- They’re on a drive to attract skilled talent to the business.
- We discussed NatCat cover for farmers. This is a compensation scheme for natural disasters arising in France. It is financed by farmers and government to assist with climate change crises. It combines public-sector reinsurance and expertise to contribute to effective risk knowledge management and prevention. A portion of the insurance premium goes to risk management research.
- Should we and/ or the government be thinking of such partnerships where maybe a portion of insurance premiums or even company and personal tax contributions go towards a cyber disaster fund, in the event of a cyber catastrophe? Are we, as insurers engaging government on the cyber risks? This discussion left me curious about what the local insurance market and government could explore and learn from existing models.
- I was fascinated with the depth of knowledge they have within each African country. It sounded like they understand the African market very well and have experts who have spent time in the different African territories and understand how each of the countries operate. They mentioned that they’re the only independent Pan-African brokerage.
- The conversation then went on to talent. It was interesting to learn that the average age of their MD’s is 35
- They attract talent by sharing a strong vision and culture and then giving ownership. They give their talent the freedom to run their units as their own businesses.
- They are invested in data and technology as a competitive edge and a tool to assist in making business processes easier and leaner for the business and the clients they service
- HDI presented their risk finance business which had a lot of fascinating learnings for many delegates.
- We also learned about Parametric insurance, a type of insurance contract that insures a policyholder against the occurrence of a specific event by paying a set amount based on the magnitude of the event, as opposed to the magnitude of the losses in a traditional indemnity policy. They have models and indexes in place that track events etc.
- One of the fascinating discussion points was insurance for reputational risk. Though it does not appear in most balance sheets (except for acquisitions), reputation is increasingly being recognized as a valuable asset, particularly to financial institutions for which the confidence of key stakeholders is critical to their survival.
- Partner-Re emphasised the importance of an increased focus of secondary perils, as they’re fast becoming a primary concern. Secondary perils account for a growing number of losses. They happen more often than primary perils − and in recent years are occurring with increasing frequency.
- Partner Re also emphasized the importance of accurate data in order to model and price correctly. They said their biggest challenge is incomplete or inaccurate data. For their NatCat modelling, they use an internal system called CatFocus and they say their model has been more accurate than the widely used ones
- What was fascinating is also to learn that South Africa in the reinsurance market is considered an earthquake-prone zone in some areas and they also participate in some programmes locally requiring the cover
- We met with Ana Boata, Head of Economic Research and Luca Moneta – Senior Economist Africa & Middle East.
- The focus was on Trade Credit Risks, from a macroeconomic level. They noted the rise of social unrest, with Europe and Africa having seen an increase of 49% and 17% respectively.
- They also took us through how their country’s risk rating and how it affects their decisions on insuring the companies within each country.
- They mentioned that South Africa’s resilience has been a good surprise and they see growth prospects in Tanzania.
The experience was second to none and the educational part is just as enriching as the social experience and will recommend it to anyone thinking about taking any future trips with the IIG. To the businesses that sent people on this excursion, the experience gives perspective, opens the mind and definitely worth the time and resources spent.
Article written by Tove Sithole