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Monte Carlo 2019 Day 4

Realtors always have one bit of sales patter that never fails to get a buyer’s blood racing:

“Land – they aren’t making any more of it,” they say, followed by a knowing sigh.

These people should come to Monaco.

This place ran out of land and so built upwards, embracing high-rise living like a little Manhattan on the Med. Now that it has constructed slightly higher than is tasteful, it has designs on the sea for new prime acreage.

Not content with inflicting three years of the closure of the Hôtel de Paris, the demolition of the Sporting d’Hiver, the barricading of the Avenue des Beaux Arts and the accompanying isolation of the fabulous Hôtel Hermitage on us all, it seems the latest project will rob us of much of the Fairmont’s local view. We feign outrage in response.

Some wonder why the reinsurance industry comes here year after year. Surely the cost is prohibitive? And after 63 years of faithful and unquestioning marriage, perhaps our partner has let itself go and is taking us a little for granted? Maybe we should keep it honest by introducing at least the hint of competition once in a while?

I think not. We are a naturally conservative industry and the real reason why we come to Monte Carlo is to experience disruption, but in a controlled environment. Monaco is a place happily disrupting itself with very little outside assistance.

We visit to be reminded how to combine ancient tradition with the cutting edge and the ultra-fashionable.

And the cost is a rounding error. The Monaco hotels are hardly outliers when compared to the five-star lodgings of New York, London, Zurich, Munich, Hannover, Paris and Bermuda, from where so many of its visitors hail.

Let’s also remember that such is the competitive nature of our business that even if we were to decamp somewhere much cheaper, no sooner would we arrive than reinsurance brokers would be merrily bidding up the prices of the best local eateries to secure the most advantageous positions for their client dinners, insisting on only the best of everything.

The maître d’s would soon catch on.

If we liked it we would keep returning in subsequent years and before long we would be back at square one. We would only have ourselves to blame. We may be conservative but we have expensive tastes that not many other cities can cater for in a similarly conference-sized area.

No, let us cast such thoughts aside and look to Monaco for learnings. The principality has no spare land so what does it do? It takes more land from the sea.

It must be unsettling for the incumbents with the best sea views.

They are just like the billionaire who owns the biggest yacht in the harbour. They live in constant fear for the day the latest addition to the Abramovich fleet moors up alongside, suddenly making their pride and joy look like a child’s bath toy in comparison.

All market leaders know that at any moment something better can come and put them in the shade. In response we must keep growing and challenging ourselves.

It is encouraging that despite market difficulties, the industry does still use Monte Carlo as a broad platform for its most expansive and progressive long-term ideas.

The annual Monaco lesson for all of us is that the only way to keep in prime position is to first create and then grow new markets. Like Monaco we must be eternally restless.

Let’s feed off this enervating environment.

See you in Septembre 2020.

To read the last of our Monte Carlo dailies for 2019, please click here.

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