Insight and Intelligence on the London & International Insurance Markets

24 January 2018

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Brothers behaving badly

Mark Geoghegan 10 January 2017

It is one of life's great paradoxes is that the older and more mature someone gets, the more irrational they become.

The little foibles, phobias and prejudices that were malleable in youth slowly harden through adolescence, ossify in middle age and then eventually fossilise into immutable stone-cold truths with the onset of advanced maturity.

Thus the child who won't eat cheese grows up to become a hardened dairy-phobe who will go the long way around to avoid walking down the lacteous aisle of a supermarket if they can possibly help it. Given enough time and self-confirmation the poor soul may eventually decide they can't bear the sight of cows.

It seems it takes a lifetime of maturation to produce wholesale irrationality.

As with men, so with markets.

It seems congratulations are in order to the ILS world for finally coming of age.

The traditional insurance and reinsurance space has been a full-blown liquid, bloody-minded and at times utterly confounding and impossible-to-fathom market for more than 300 years. It gets over-excited and despondent by turns, and exhibits all the famous animal spirits described by Maynard Keynes.

It is not always rational, but then it has been around long enough to have earned itself that noble right.

Now the world of alternative capital is coming out to join it in this wonderfully liberating but wholly imperfect adult sphere.

After over 20 years of growing pains it's been given the key to the door and is old and responsible enough to exhibit irrational behaviours all of its own. These days it is big and strong and heavy enough for its parents to know they can no longer tell it what to do.

It has left school, makes its own living and has moved out of the family home - neither mum, dad nor the teachers run the show any more.

In years past this market was something of a teacher's pet. It seemed always ready to snitch on its vice-ridden traditional insurance older brother whenever he smoked an illicit pricing and coverage cigarette behind the metaphorical market bike shed.

But now it has found vices of its own.

The 2016 H2 buyers' strike threw the shackles off and 30 percent discounts were found where the ruthless logic and resolve of 2015 had previously resided.

Deals are being done here at prices and terms that would make the traditional market wince.

Welcome to the world, ILS.

We salute you - now that you are big enough to do the occasional dumb thing you are a real market and always will be.

You have gamely laid down the gauntlet. It's time for your older brother to show you how irrationality really should be done...

This article was published as part of issue January 2017/2

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