Every year, the Reinsurance Rendez-Vous in Monte Carlo has a theme. In 2005 it was Hurricane Katrina, which was unfolding during the course of the meeting, for example. Last year it was Ike.
During my first Rendez-Vous in 2003, the talk was all about downgrades, mostly centered on the Swiss reinsurer Converium, which had been downgraded just days before the meeting and SCOR, which had previously been downgraded. There was serious concern about the viability of the companies.
Not long after that, SCOR came up with a plan that included restructuring, and later massive PR events. Henry Klecan Jr., president and CEO of the Americas for SCOR in New York, told me the about the plan, explaining that it reigned in “cowboy” underwriters and put in place checks and balances for underwriting, shut down at least one location and developed teams to work in close proximity with clients.
The company, he said, was determined to be a fully functioning reinsurer.
Two years ago SCOR amped up its PR program to restore the company’s image. One massive billboard after another were created by artists dangling from ropes during the course of the Rendez-Vous. As soon as one was finished, another was painted on top of it and then another. Three in all. Mimes helped complete the air of celebration (I’m not crazy about mimes, but hey, it’s a French company).
Last year SCOR had several tents erected where it held meetings and press conferences and did so again this year. Behind the casino was a huge white tent (with air conditioning) and an outdoor deck. My favorite part was the soft ice cream cones.
Is SCOR’s plan working? Their ratings are where they need to be and a few analysts have admitted that SCOR has pulled off a daunting feat. Once a company slips below a “B” rating, I’ve been told, it generally continues to decline. SCOR also managed to secure the loyalty of brokers and clients, which was key to their success.
So you be the judge. But from where I sit, it looks like the company is doing pretty well—mimes aside.