Articles - Willis Re report discusses mutuals and diversification

 Willis Re has released a report discussing the challenges and opportunities offered to mutual insurers through diversification.

 The report, subtitled “Navigating the Pitfalls in Pursuit of Successful Diversification”, examines, through discussion and the use of case studies, how the unique characteristics of mutual insurers mean that some are being encouraged towards diversification by regulators and rating agencies, and considers some of the issues that need to be addressed by mutuals to ensure success in diversifying.

 The report explains that regulations introduced in association with Solvency II, and its equivalents around the world, have encouraged some mutual insurers to consider exploring new lines of business or entering new territories in order to benefit from the potential relief in regulatory capital calculations that diversification can offer. In addition, a greater level of diversification invites favourable consideration from rating agencies.

 Mutual insurers are policyholder-owned entities, and as such their capital is inherently less flexible than non-mutual capital. The Willis Re report states that “committing capital to new lines of business or new territories, especially where the organisation may only have limited expertise or experience, is intrinsically riskier for mutuals given the relative importance of the capital at stake compared to non-mutuals.”

 John Haydon, one of the authors of the report, comments “the potential benefit from diversification relief in regulatory capital calculations makes this an ideal time to open a broad discussion on the issues faced by mutuals when contemplating diversification strategies.”

 Robin Swindell, joint author of the report, commented “A key lesson is to pursue diversification only where it is in line with the long-term aims of the organisation, stands a reasonable chance of being profitable, and does not come at the expense of a loss of focus on other aspects of business.”

 The report states that whilst reinsurance alone cannot resolve all the issues facing mutuals in the face of diversification, it can offer significant benefits to in managing the process by recognising and reflecting upon the unique nature of the relationship between a mutual and their members’ capital.

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