You never stop learning

You never stop learning

I have been off air over the past week or so as I was preparing for a major international conference on risk and the insurance business in history.

The conference was one of the best that I had attended with an enormous amount of learnings as well as making important new contacts in the academic community.

Through my association with Professor Robin Pearson of Hull University who I had asked to deliver the key note address at the conference that I co-hosted with Greg Pynt to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the seminal judgement of utmost good faith in Carter v Boehm [1766] I was invited to be on the Scientific Committee and to deliver the closing paper at the conference. In view of the slot I chose to speak to the future of insurance in a paper titled: “Can the insurance industry rely on its rich history to guarantee of its future?” The 2 hour address covered a wide range of areas including climate change, technological developments, big data and insurtech.

There were many highlights but one of the things that gave me great heart for the future of our industry was the number of young researchers looking in great detail into insurance. The quality of their papers was truly first class. The willingness of the older generations to generously share their knowledge was fantastic.

The conference, which was nearly 3 years in planning was very well attended. Academics from 95 universities as well as insurance professionals from 25 countries attended the conference. I was pleased to see Australia was well represented.

While there were many areas that were of interest to me, I mention three to close. The first is that when the public lose faith in insurance the industry goes into decline and or is subjected to additional regulation. Australia is current proof that this holds true to this day following the recent Royal Commission into the financial industry.

The second one was that throughout history governments have often provided tax concessions to encourage the public to take out insurance. We see this to this day with superannuation, and health insurance. As I was hearing of where this had been done, I lamented on how out of step this all was to the levels of taxation imposed on insurance in Australia and New Zealand with stamp duty and in the case of New South Wales, Tasmania and New Zealand with Fire / Emergency Services Levies.

Why is general insurance being singled out when it is so important to the protection of home and business owners and to the economy that politicians are entrusted to protect?

One of the topics addressed by several speakers was financial inclusion and micro insurance in developing countries. With the increasing cost of insurance, the move from community rating to risk rating in North Queensland and elsewhere, the ever increasing cost of construction compared to the low level pace of wage growth that we are seeing more and more Australians not being able to adequately insure. I hope the industry is concerned about this as I am.

Having said this, one of the many approaches I had during the conference was to work on a micro insurance project in Ethiopia.

As I was flying home, I, as I often do, reflected that no matter how much you think you know about insurance and risk management, there is always much more to learn.

Special thanks go to Professor Jerònia Pons, University of Seville and to Professor Robin Pearson, Hull University. There is talk of a follow up conference in 3 years which I would fully support.

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