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April 23, 1999
"The Vicissitudes of Insurance"

Jeffrey Greenberg, president of the Marsh & McLennan Companies, is a true insurance industry insider. He spent 17 years at AIG, was chairman of Marsh & McLennan Capital, and is a director of ACE Limited. Jeff, who will become CEO of Marsh & McLennan by the end of 1999, has had a rare view from the top of the industry, and he will share that view -- and his experiences and insights about relevant matters -- with us.

After graduating from Harvard Business School at 21, William R. Berkley began his career managing money. He gravitated to insurance because he considered insurance companies to be attractive investments. Today, W.R. Berkley Corporation, which Bill started at the ripe old age of 22, is a billion-dollar insurance holding company. (Bill does not limit himself to Conference Speakers insurance; in his spare time he has run a host of other businesses, including those in banking, chemicals, distribution, food, and money management.) Bill has always had an eye for value, an awareness of risk, and a willingness to act independently. He will tell us what he's thinking about these days.

James Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, is a writer and financial historian of unparalleled erudition. His métier is "markets," which encompasses everything from the Baltic Freight Index, gold, and insurance companies, to overvalued Internet stocks, undervalued Japanese securities, and the demand for credit. Way back in the 1980s, Jim was the most vocal (and eloquent), critic of junk bonds (and junk-bond laden life-insurance companies). Jim is the author of several books, including the classics Money of the Mind and The Trouble With Prosperity. His comments will be of great interest to folks in the insurance industry. Insurance companies, after all, are essentially risk-taking investment pools that employ financial leverage.

One problem with most security analysts is that they work for big Wall Street firms that are often too eager to garner lucrative underwriting and investment-banking business. That environment is not ideal for independent thinkers. V.J. DOWLING is the proprietor of Dowling & Partners Securities, an independent institutional stock-brokerage firm that specializes in property/casualty stocks. V.J. is from the old-fashioned school of security analysis -- he focuses on fundamentals rather than on "momentum," market psychology, new-age economics, or other mumbo jumbo. He subjects insurance-company balance sheets to microscopic analysis, scrutinizes loss reserves and reinsurance treaties, and understands -- in our opinion, better than any analyst -- the underlying factors that drive the industry and the companies. A prolific writer and compelling speaker, he will share his outlook on various sectors of the property/casualty industry, and tell us where he sees value (or lack thereof).

Christopher Davis is no stranger to long-time readers of Schiff's Insurance Observer. Five years ago we wrote a glowing profile of the then 29-year-old thoroughbred money manager who loved insurance stocks. At that time the Davis Funds had $300 million under management. Today the figure is $25 billion. Before entering the investment business, Chris considered becoming an Episcopal priest and got his Masters in philosophy and theology. (His grandfather, the insurance investor Shelby Cullom Davis, later told him that this was the perfect training because "in the investment business you need your philosophy and then you've got to pray like hell.") Mutual funds co-managed by Chris have received Morningstar's highest rating: 5 stars. Chris will talk about how he does what he does and, perhaps, share the secret of the "Davis double play."

Jason Adkins is an indefatigable consumer activist and lawyer who has helped bring about a revolution in the mutual insurance industry. After working for Ralph Nader he founded the Center for Insurance Research, which has waged (and, for the most part, won) an epic battle against abusive demutualizations and mutual-holding company conversions. Jason, a partner at Adkins & Kelston, P.C., is a forceful advocate for proper disclosure, fairness, and the public interest. His thoughts on the insurance industry, dissemination of information, and regulation will fascinate and surprise you.

David Schiff began working -- reluctantly -- in the insurance business in 1974. He has held a number of jobs over the years, the best of which has been writing Schiff's Insurance Observer, which he founded in 1989. In addition to interrogating chatting with the other speakers, David will have his say on the great insurance issues of the day.