Emerging-market countries represent huge,untapped opportunities for insurers, but carriers that are notproperly staffed with people who understand the cultures, historiesand markets of these nations will not succeed in their efforts,said former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg during the keynotepresentation of the 23rd Annual Executive Conference—an eventhosted by Ernst & Young and Summit Business Media (parentcompany of NU) at the Crowne Plaza Times Square hotel inNew York City on Dec. 6.

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“To succeed, insurers have to have people on staff whounderstand these emerging markets and capital to spare to fund apotentially long adjustment time,” said Greenberg, who now servesas chairman and CEO of Starr Insurance Holdings. “And you have tounderstand the risks involved. It takes more courage to enter anemerging market than a fully developed and regulated one.”

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Among the many challenges that need to be overcome in emergingmarkets: the risk of insuring business executives or commercialproperty in politically unstable countries, where the pricing ofsuch risks will be very different than in mature and less volatilecountries.

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Another issue is differences in regulations. Growing countriesin Latin America, he said, offer insurers significant opportunitiesfor overseas expansion. But adapting to the wide differences inrules and legislation governing carriers and producers canbe a big challenge.

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Turning to prospects for greater federal regulation of theinsurance industry, Greenberg said he doesn't expect this to happenin the near term. He said attempts to do so would meet with “howls”of protest by state regulators, so greater federal oversight is notan immediate threat.

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When asked during the question-and-answer session about thesecret to his continuing good health, Greenberg, who turned 87 lastMay, credited his discipline and healthy lifestyle.

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“I have a healthy diet and work out regularly,” Greenberg said.“And I'm a disciplined person—a character trait that dates fromtime in the military. I'm also very focused on, and enjoy, what Ido.” 

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