Monte Carlo 2019 Day 2

One of the privileges of being a journalist is being able to float ideas.

Things that aren’t yet necessarily fully formed, or which you are not entirely convinced of.

But ideas which you are stress testing and trying to hone, including ones which will be tested to destruction either on the page or by the subsequent reader response.

The idea I would like to float here is that the global reinsurance industry should try holding its annual September gathering outside Monte Carlo.

I want to preface what I am about to say by emphasising that the Principality of Monaco has been a remarkable host for the Rendez-Vous for more than 60 years.

Monte Carlo has provided a spectacular backdrop to decades of productive and illuminating meetings, with the Monegasque people welcoming and warm.

Nevertheless, I think the idea of moving the Rendez-Vous needs at least to be considered carefully.

Traditions need to be respected, but there is nothing in business where it makes sense to do exactly what has always been done precisely and solely because it is what has been done before.

The status quo needs to be subjected to proper scrutiny and alternative approaches scrupulously assessed.

I think there are two primary concerns which I weigh against the emotional and practical draws of Monte Carlo.

The first is simply cost. The unique charms of Monte Carlo come with a suitably unique price tag.

And with 30-40 cents of each dollar of premium being absorbed by frictional costs, industry leaders must ask searching questions about whether the reinsurance sector can afford its annual pilgrimage to the Côte d’Azur, and whether it is comfortable with the signal that this
sends.

My second concern is that returning to the same place every 12 months feeds a tendency towards conservatism, and even the danger of stagnant thinking.

Staying in the same hotels, eating at the same restaurants, looking up at the same olive tree, staring out over the same coastline – all of it tends towards the same outcome. 

Your calendar rolls over from one year to the next and so does your approach.

It can feel like a closed system. 

I have bumped into the same broker from Aon three years of the last four at or on my way to Nice Airport. We ran into each other again on Saturday.

Each year I have enjoyed seeing him. But it feels like we are stuck on repeat. I do not understand why it is never a broker from Guy Carpenter or Willis Re. It just never is.

I wonder whether by embracing a new city – or better yet a circuit of different cities – the industry would not benefit.

In part, the symbol of openness to change is a good one for a traditional industry to adopt.

But more than that, I think it would be a very different conference if we tried running it somewhere else.

Different cities have different feels and bring different ways of doing things. They help foster new thinking, new approaches and new connections.

Perhaps the industry’s elders could even consider a pilot. Like Glastonbury, allow Monte Carlo a fallow year and see if there are any benefits to gathering at Madrid, or Amsterdam, or Paris.

If not, then the pilot could be written off as just that – a failed experiment.

As I said, I am floating an idea here. This is much more a call to thought and serious reflection than a call to arms.

Because I must admit that if the calendar ticked round to the second week of September and I wasn’t packing my bags for Monte Carlo, I think I would feel a wave of nostalgic sadness. And I suspect I would not be the only one.

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