April 23, 1999
"The Vicissitudes of Insurance"
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.
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
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