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Managing Risks in Turbulent Times

(Article published in the Apr 22, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today)

Tomorrow, 23rd of April, is the last day to sign up for a seat in the limited sitting capacity symposium on today’s most pressing concern, how to immune oneself from the impact on the on-going global economic downturn.  To be held on the whole day of the 29th of this month, from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, is the 6th Philippine Non-Life Insurance Summit at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City.

 Organized by Reynaldo De Dios’ Insurance Philippines, a quarterly magazine devoted to the growth of the Philippine insurance industry, with the collaboration of the Insurance Institute for Asia and the Pacific (IIAP) and the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association, Inc. (PIRA), this year’s forum is intended to be the venue for exchange of ideas and strategies amongst various stake holders in the pursuit of workable solutions to the problems and difficulties posed by the current turbulent insurance landscape.

 Indicative of how important the event is, five senior executives are flying in to speak for the one-day session.  They are Dr. Eduard Held of Swiss Re, David Piesse of Sun Microsystems, Mark Cooper of TFC Brokerage, Simon Wilson of Lloyd’s Asia, and Suilvius Von Lindeiner of the recently merged Aon Benfield from Aon Re Global and Benfield.  
 










     

As he had done in the 5th Summit last year, Mr. Eduardo T. Malinis, Insurance Commissioner, will fire the opening salvo. This year, he will give an overview of the Philippine non-life insurance market.  Commissioner Malinis, undoubtedly, knows whereof he will speak.  He retired as head of the Insurance Commission in 2004 after more than 26 years in the service but was called back to office by the President of the Philippines on 13 August 2007 to serve once more as its guiding head.  He was not to start with a clean slate, however. His mandate this second time around is to continue pushing for the reforms he himself had started in the insurance industry “for the greater protection of the public and better accessibility of insurance products to the common people.”

 It will be interesting to see how the current situation will be described from the economist’s point of view by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas who will at the rostrum immediately following the Malinis sweeping overview.  Many, hearing of his recent candid admissions of signs that our economy is slipping, now have difficulty recalling that he was once dubbed the “Prophet of Boom” for his previous rosy forecasts and consistently “half-full glass” view of the world.

 But then, who knows.  Though we have for some time now been treated to steady doses of bad news, both by local and foreign analysts, there nevertheless appear some shoots of life sprouting on account of massive government interventions in Obama-land and our other trading partners.  The good professor, a reputed member of a religious community eagerly awaiting the Second Coming,  just might be able to lift, if not the economy, at least the spirit.

 Regardless, Dr. Villegas comes with solid credentials.  He is Visiting Professor at the IESE Business School of the University of Navarra, with main campuses in Barcelona and Madrid, and resident Professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig City.  Both schools are initiatives of the Opus Dei, which like the Society of Jesus, also runs schools all over the globe.  He brings to the symposium an impressive academic background constantly honed by years both in the public service and in private business then and now. 

 After dealing with the broad strokes on the regulatory and economic environment, the succeeding discussants will focus on the specific issues of concern.  Since the stability of the insurance industry depends on how well it effects risk-sharing, aspects of re-insurance will be the central point of the presentation of two speakers.  In the morning, Dr. Eduard Held, holder of a master’s degree from the University of Basel and a PhD from the Swiss Federal Institute of Zurich, will talk about the current economic crisis’ financial impact on re-insurance.  He should know; Held is a member of Swiss Re’ Asia Management Team and is responsible for, among other areas, the coordination of the re-insurer’s external and internal reporting and business planning.  In the afternoon, Mr. Silvius Von Lindeiner who is very familiar with our part of the globe having been involved in treaty business in the area since 1978, will explore the question of whether a new dimension of service is being presented to the re-insurance broker in these times of extreme financial uncertainty.

 Specific types of risks of current interest will be the topic for Dr. Renato Solidum and Ms. Judith Lopez.  Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, will give an update on the country’s risk profile; Lopez, managing partner on top of assurance services at Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PricewaterhouseCoopers global network, for her part, will talk about managing liquidity and fraud risk in this time of economic crisis.  The management of the credit risk that is exacerbated by the crisis will be the subject of Mr. Mark Cooper’s talk.  Cooper, who has a business and law background, is managing director of TFC Brokerage that specializes in providing insurance and capital market risk solutions to its clients.

 Suggested responses to these risks will come from Mr. Jessie S. Esconde, senior consultant engineer and resident agent of FM Global in the Philippines, who will discuss risk improvement in the face of uncertain circumstances.  Esconde has international experience gathered in his work property loss prevention and risk consultant of FM Global’s clients in, aside from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and China.  The changes in insurance technology responding to the credit crisis, on the other hand, will be the subject of the discussion of Mr. David Piesse who specializes on the demands on risk transfer and management made by the now widely acknowledged convergence of banking, insurance and capital markets.

 Finding one’s niche and being very good at it is standard advice of consultants across the board and an insurance person will find the final discussion of the day, to be delivered by Mr. Simon Wilson, very apropos.  Wilson is Lloyd’s country manager in Singapore.  In the short space of time since taking his post in January 2007, he grew the company’s platform from a syndicate of 8 participants to current 15.  For the year prior to his takeover of the helm, the 2006 annual premium of Lloyd’s was US$65 million; in 2008, it had risen to US$165 million.

 If the overflow crowd that was present during last year’s summit is any indication of how the industry will respond to this year’s, then the stakeholders ought not lose time in getting themselves a seat to this important event.  Among Rey De Dios’ coordinates are telephone nos. (632) 521-5444, 526-0147 and 525-1070; fax nos. (632) 526-0147 and 526-0143; and e-mail addresses, radedios@info.com.ph and dediosreynaldo@yahoo.com.
 

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