Industry Execs Weigh In on Impacts of the 2012 Election Season

NEW YORK -- Just a month after all the ballots were counted, insurance-industry panelists at the 23rd annual Executive Conference tried to make sense of this year’s election results.

The conference, hosted by Ernst & Young and Summit Business Media, featured a panel consisting of Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute; Marc Cadin, executive vice president for government affairs at the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting; and Steven Bensinger, senior managing director of the Global Insurance Services Group at FTI consulting (and former CFO of AIG).

The reelection of Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex), the vice chair of the Committee on Financial Services, was viewed as “a good thing” for the industry, but the defeat of Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), who served as chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, was described “as a major setback for insurance.” 

And the fact that Maxine Waters (D-Calif) will be replacing the retiring Barney Frank (D-Mass) as the ranking member of the Committee on Financial Services was also seen as a negative development. 

On the Federal Insurance Office front, no one could be sure what surprises might be embedded in its long-overdue report on the modernization of insurance, but there was a fair amount of hope that the office’s focus will be restricted primarily to international issues and that it will not impose significant additional reporting requirements on the industry.  

On ORSA (Own Risk and Solvency Assessment): The panelists reported that leading insurance organizations are recognizing the benefits of a sophisticated enterprise-risk management program and that the resulting benefits offset the costs of implementation. 

Other points of interest:

  • While still too early to tell, there likely will be no insurance-agent exemption for the medical-loss ration component of PPACA. 
  • Cat bonds and other alternative vehicles, including hedge funds, will continue to supplement traditional reinsurance. Of note here: Oak Leaf Re 2012, a cat bond open to all investors not just traditional buyers of reinsurance, allowed the middle-market cedant (a Florida Homeowner specialist) to access sources of capital that traditionally would not have been available to it.
  • Efforts to create a National Catastrophe Fund will be forestalled by work on NFIP
  • Among its numerous other impacts, the Obama victory validated the role of Big Data and predictive analytics
  • The awareness of the need for better data security will be an important theme in 2013—expect new federal rules for key commercial industries, including insurance  
  • One of our favorite quotes from the conference: “The federal government is essentially an insurance company with an army.” (Marc Cadin)
  • Since the administration of Harry Truman, under which president has the industry had the highest return on equity? Jimmy Carter at 16.43 percent (credit sky-high interest rates). The worst? Kennedy-Johnson (3.55 percent). But for insurers, it hasn’t really mattered which party is in control. The average ROE under Democrats: 7.67 percent; under Republicans: 7.97 percent—a “marginal difference” that can be ascribed to the fact that “Mother Nature doesn’t care who’s in the White House,” said Robert Hartwig, who shared the data. 
  • The renewal of TRIA, seen as “critical” for the industry, will be complicated by the fact that “there is little institutional memory” on the legislation (originally enacted in 2002) in Congress.

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