RenaissanceRe Holdings CEO Presents at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Insurance Conference (Transcript)

| About: RenaissanceRe Holdings (RNR)

RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd. (NYSE:RNR)

Bank of America Merrill Lynch Insurance Conference Call

February 14, 2013, 11:45 am ET


Neill Currie - CEO


Unidentified Analyst

Very pleased to have with us today Neill Currie, Head of RenaissanceRe. Neill was one of the original leaders of this company. He left for a while, came back. But something I think Neill has done remarkably well and I don't think its very easy, is to maintain a very consistent culture at this company and culture is a tough thing to talk about its tough to write about, we can't model it. But one thing I have learned over 20 years of watching this industry is that its really important and I think key to the success of RenaissanceRe. There is other things going on to, I'll let Neill tell you about that.

Neill Currie

Okay, gentlemen we got the mic on here. I’ll like to wander around and let me see if I got the clicker here and try this out. Green means go, I bet. I want everybody to memorize this please. There will be a test later. Okay, this is a pretty good spot, coming up after (inaudible) got a marvelous company, a very good market value to share price and we kind of buy for that leading spot with those guys. They are a very well managed company.

We think we are pretty well managed. The intro to RenRe, we are a leading global provider of reinsurance and insurance. We do property CAT, we do specialty reinsurance and we have a Lloyd’s syndicate. So I didn't know that I want to mention this or not but why not, Valentine’s Day step out, one magazine had a survey, you know, people do these things about who is the best at this, who is the best at that, well, we've been lucky enough to win the best property catastrophe reinsurer several times, maybe best Bermuda reinsurer, but this last year, we won best global reinsurer, how about that and we were up against the big boys. You know, 10 years ago we never would have won an award like that, deserved otherwise, because we were viewed as a property CAT company, but now it just shows the recognition of the value we are bringing to the table with our specialty reinsurance and our Lloyd’s operation.

So with that a modest statement it reminded me of Ben Franklin. Ben wanted to become as perfect as he could be and he would keep up with certain traits and he would focus on one at a time. And he was pretty good at most of them, somebody told him, said Ben you know you need to work on your modesty. You know, you are always conceded and so he focused on that and became very good at it and he started bragging about how good he had become at modesty. So I always remember that story and get a kick out of it.

The rest of the stuff’s pretty straightforward. We started in 1993. This is our 20th anniversary. We were founded with two guys and I was one of them, by June 14th, 1993 so we have big celebration in Bermuda in June to celebrate our 20th. Our ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange is RNR which is completely ridiculous, because back in the war, RNR stood for Rest and Relaxation; ain’t too much of that going on at Renaissance. Market capital of around $3.9 billion, pretty good numbers on ROE basis and the thing that we really focused on is tangible book value per share growth. We've been very fortunate there and the rating agencies like us and we want to keep it that way.

[Jay], you didn’t give me a fighting chance with the clock back there, otherwise, I'll talk for an hour, so okay, good. You will pull the hook out one last time. Okay, alright, everybody has a mission to vision statement and you guys are well educated, you can read that, but we do strive to produce superior returns and frankly one of the best ways we do this is we look after our customers, both internal and external and try to always exceed our promises. We try to excel in every way that we possibly can and we want to be a leader in financial services and the lines of business that we're involved in and I think we are.

And this is pretty speaking of modesty, how about this one. Our identity; we're committed to be the world’s best underwriter of high severity low frequency risk. We want to be the best that we can be and we strive constantly to get better. And as Jay mentioned earlier, our culture, we're fortunate we’ve got a good group of folks. They are smart, they are hardworking, they get along and that’s not a very easy thing. We are a pretty reasonable sized company financially. We're not very big from a people standpoint. I think we got 311 employees, but really very talented ones and guess what, they work together well. So the last part here on the strategy is to employ an integrated system and it matches up most desirable risk with the most efficient capital.

I’ve seen over the years that people they get (inaudible) where we are the best actuaries, we are the best underwriters and over here we are the best finance guys and over here we are the best venture guys, but what makes Renaissance home is all these folks work together well in an integrated way, fancy word integrate, we call it team work. But you will see in our annual report, this is going to come out and we are going to talk quite a bit about the integrated system.

The other thing I find pretty amerces back when we started the company, I was vehement that we wouldn’t have any pictures in annual report and we didn’t and I came back as CEO in 2005 and guess what my mug is in the annual report, first thing you will see is a picture of me. So crazy world we live in and I wouldn’t focus on the pictures, I would focus on the writing.

Our competitive advantages; we say this all of the time. We refer to them as the three superiors; superior customer relationships, superior risk selection, superior capital management. So to have superior customer relations, that I think is one of the things that is underappreciated in our business; by having very good customer relationships we have very good flow; we get to see virtually any deal out there and people want to do business with us; people think we are smart, we’ve got a black box and we are good at modeling and we are at that stuff.

But the client relationships, we help our clients, we provide coverage for them when they need the coverage, we have always done that. Historically, we are there after a whilst to pay quickly; there is no faster payer of claims out there than we are and when a customer comes into our office, we want them to walk out of the office feeling what they have learned more about their business and that happens quite a bit of the time. So by having these three superiors, it enables us to have access to the most desirable risk and we match it up with the most efficient capital through our superior capital management; that gives us a superior portfolio.

Now since we have been in business for about 20 year, its really helpful, we have a portfolio of business that produces very good return. So every year we just have to modify that a little bit; we loose a piece of business here and there, we gain a piece of business here and there, we buy retro, we never buy retro we have to because we have to, we buy to make our book of business more efficient. So if you got a relatively stable book of business then when you put a proforma out, so when you look at a piece of business coming in, it doesn't make your portfolio better or worst. It’s a lot easier to do that, if you’ve got a pretty good idea what that portfolio is and is going to be versus than a new startup trying to put together that portfolio because you might find the piece of business you want, but it maybe very difficult for you get on that piece of business.

I guess this goes back to Ben Franklin slot, this is rather immodest, but its factual. We have done a pretty good job of growing intangible book value per share plus accumulated dividends, those are the bars that you see, and then you see the share price is typically a good bit higher than that. Historically, in the company we had one of the higher multiples of book value too, sorry market value per share to book value and I kind of view it you get what you pay for. We do have a very good business and the very good number of folks that work for us. And the only thing that I might say, and you see would, I have to be careful, don't held the [stock], well, I love the (inaudible) of the company, but I think a lot of people in our space are undervalued, I think its pretty silly that some of our competitors, or good guys are trading a discount to book value. So I think the whole industry is rather undervalued.

And if you look back at our market multiple now, it’s somewhere between about 1.2 and 1.25. Historically, it’s been a whole lot higher than that. So I think we have a real franchise and that deserves market value of substantially higher than the book value. Okay. I guess this is bragging again but it’s factual again. So you see the bars. This shows you RNR's operating ROE going back to I guess 1996 so in that year and we did pretty good about a 30% ROE.

So the squiggly lines and the bars are us, the squiggly lines are the peer group as picked by us, I mean you got to pick up a peer group, its pretty hard though to pick a peer group and these were the best we could come up with. And so how have we performed on an ROE basis since ’96, might have been better if we look back at the beginning but it’s hard to find other guys compared to I guess.

But so just if you look at ’96 as an example, we had a 30% ROE, it looks like our peer group was about half of that. So the heading here says ROE of 18% since ’96 versus 10% for peers. We don't outstrip the peers every year. We did a pretty good job in the World Trade Center. Look at that we had a very nice return that year and the peer group lost money which is very understandable.

One of the reasons we did so well there were several reasons, I think we bought pretty good retro program. This was back at a time when I was retired. So I can't take credit for this, but we managed our portfolios for tail events. We want to be the last guy standing and one of the reasons we did so well that year is we were concerned about the earthquake exposure to New York City. We don't want to have too much aggregation of exposure in New York which helped us out in the World Trade Center.

There's no way we could have predicted an event like that but we look at tail events and very cognizant of that. Then as you might imagine in ’04 we underperformed as a peer group and the reason for that, that was kind of the perfect storm. So once again that was right before I came back but the guys who bought some retro in Florida and all these events happened and weren't very big.

So we paid out for retro but didn't get any recovery sort of added insult to injury. So ’04 was not a banner year for us and right on the heels, you know welcome back or come back the day after Independence Day in ’05 and become a dependent again and then we stepped into KRW and we didn't do as well as the peer group then here.

But the next year 2006 not too bad. So you will see sometimes that we do worse than the peer group and sometimes we do better. Most of the time we do better but so the RenRe story is we are going to have a little bit of volatility. If you won't accept a little bit of volatility we will give you a better than average return.

Disciplined underwriting, well, that's what we do. So we are showing you some different cycles here and that our premium volume goes up and down. We got out of the US insurance business a couple of years ago. We had started to write a fair amount of admitted insurance in the US and that's not really our forte. We are underwriters’ underwriters and to do that you have to run a very efficient lean low expense ratio type business.

And we are better at underwriting, so the insurance business that we do now is actually written in Lloyd’s and that's on an excess and surplus lines basis. So you have more like freedom and you have a better chance there on a higher margin. But we are still widely; much of the predominance of our business is reinsurance. But you can see these squiggles in the cat business and the other lines and we tend to put, well we do put the foot down and accelerate in good times and we put our foot down to break in less good times. Some companies are good at doing one or the other. We're pretty good at doing both.

Okay, strong franchises. So here are three main things that we do. We have reinsurance, a little syndicate and we got ventures. Some other folks who are kind of following our lead in ventures. Ventures is a special unit dedicated to managing our catastrophe joint ventures if we make strategic investments and then our energy advisory firm REAL.

And as I touched on the first slide, we now do stuff other than just property, cat and reinsurance and do it well. Okay, some of the analysts out there and shareholders like looking at this graph. This is our view of the world. It's nobody else’s view but we get to see virtually every cat deal out there and we look at it and say how much of the business provides an acceptable return which you see in the grouping on the left, how much is a low return and what's a negative return.

Negative return meaning if you actually wrote that business, we think you would lose money over time. And so, nothing of particularly interesting going on in these charts. It is changing year-on-year, other than I think it's interesting to note, usually about half the business is acceptable return and about 35% is [low] return and 10% to 15% is negative return.

So what we do, we strive to have all of our businesses in the left and none of our business on the right. Our business written on the right is not a good career path at RenRe. Then we mentioned the superiors again on the right and by having those superiors, it enables us to get more of the business on the left.

Okay, return on risk capital. If you look at the purple line that’s us and if you look at the sort of greenish line that is the US total cap market. So that you can see for example that the expected return went up substantially after KRW and so there is typically a margin between returns that we think we provide versus the returns of the average of the market and we want to keep it that way.

Okay, risk management is core of our culture. I guess one of the things some people think (inaudible) numbers, they are lucky. They have been pretty lucky for 20 years that the big one happened in Florida, they are (inaudible) I mean people kind of look and say well there must be luck well, I am sure there is some luck in there but one of the things that I look at if you want to see how we run our businesses, we look at the history and see what our losses have been compared to what one might think those losses would be.

So this is on a percent of equity, if you look on the top of the more recent events going down on the left, so in Sandy, our peer average loss, guys it's hard to see from this angle, it was around 4% to 4.5% of equity and we lost little bit less than that. And then you look at the Thai flooding, our peers lost a higher percentage of equity than we did. You look at the Japanese earthquake in 2011 same thing. Brazilian earthquake we lost a little bit more than our peers. Chilean earthquake did better than our peers and in the US hurricanes, I can (inaudible) we did little bit better.

Now another chart we could have shown you but it’s harder to get the information together and to actually have a fair comparison would be we won the biggest property cat riders in the world. So if you did this on a percentage of cat premiums, we would look far better. But other people take risk in the Sandy in the form of facultative insurance that is not might be fair, but you just think about it, it is not a bad record for guys specialized all in property cat, a bunch of it.

Little bragging point as I look at that board over here. We are one of the new companies that still have an excellent enterprises management rating from S&P.

Specialty, a disciplined approach. We had some evolution on the specialty business and may be I can give you a slide that kind of plug the people in the culture here a little bit again come back with that in the second, but you see how much specialty business we wrote going back after 9/11 and got up over $400 million at its (inaudible).

Before 9/11, you could buy reinsurance for workers’ compensation catastrophe for pennies. People just didn't think what happen, you have lot of employees together in one place and as a result of an event you would have a lot of losses. Well, after 9/11 that changed and lot of people ran away from it and then, we said that is pretty good time to write this and we wrote thing, I know over $100 million worth of that business, but I think maybe up closer to $110 and $120 million of that business. And we don't think we ever paid any losses but then as time went on, people said let's diversify from property cat, let's write some workers’ comp business.

Well, it is catastrophe exposed the cost would be from a catastrophe but rates went down and I now I think we probably got about $3 million of workers comp cat. So we are very disciplined in our approach. The other thing that we've changed is the team. We had one very strong underwriter in the specialty area going back to this period. Now we have a lot of very strong underwriters. We got when we talk about rocket scientists and the guys who graduated with Honors at MIT, etcetera and then get their actuarial degree for fun. We got some really smart people. I think I'm probably the stupidest person in the company and like to keep it that way. If you have everybody else smart than you are, you don't have to work as hard.

So we've got some very bright people underwriting this business and as I talked about earlier, the recognition of us being a true global reinsurer that expertise is being recognized by the marketplace. So this has been a real surprisingly large source of profits for us over the years and may continue. Lloyd’s long term growth opportunity, when we started at Lloyd’s we said we didn't really want to go out and buy a syndicate. People bought syndicates and the cost was substantial. So we bought a managing agency and then we started off and we are very proud of our culture and we want to have our folks over there. So finally Ross Curtis who is one of our top underwriters and by the way if you look at the pedigree of our underwriters, Ross’s claim to fame was a philosophy degree from Edinburgh and John Paradigm who is one of our top underwriters who is now in Singapore used to be a rock performer in Dubai.

But we felt like if he is good at music he could certainly handle reinsurance. But one common threat is they are all bright but a lot of, not everybody came through the actuarial lines. But at Lloyd’s we said look we are going to just start off, do it our way, go slow and steady and slow and steady see pretty rapid growth there but that's a huge fish in pond over there and the question comes up when do we think we are going to make some money, well we get pretty close to that, I mean right at breakeven-ish and over the coming decades this will be a significant source of income for the company, and I'm very pleased with the team that we have over there.

Another thing that we like doing, we like to have an office in different parts of the world because not only everybody that's smart is in Bermuda or North Carolina or even New York. There are actually some smart people in London or Dublin, and we are going to find out there are some smart people in Singapore. So it gives us an opportunity to throw a wider net to attract talent, and I'm real pleased with the team that we've got there.

Ventures, expanding the franchise, well (inaudible) carries four cell phones with him now and he doesn't but he probably should. You know everybody is talking about third party capital, and we've been at third party capital going back to 1999. So the main thing that ventures does is it sells the RenRe soap and he’s got good soap to sell so I think he’s got a pretty good, pretty easy job. So and I'd say that it is hard to match up capital with risk. So for example the state pharma licensed ship at TL RE that's been a marvelous relationship. They are terrific partners and that is a long term marriage.

We write international reinsurance on behalf of top players Re. We own the company 50-50 with State Farm and then they provide an aggregate stop loss for about $3.9 billion or above that. But that capital if we match that capital with large buyers of reinsurance that need top players where they can be certain of recovery and that's a great way that we match up good long term capital with very meaningful long term needs of the clients. And we typically can get above market terms on that because somewhat our reputation and also the reputation of State Farm and the certainty of collection claims.

We also have strategic investments. We would do that through ventures and example of that would be [Dan] in Florida, we own 25% of the Tower Hill Group for example. If we decide we want to make an investment. Occasionally, we will invest to help a startup company get started, hoping that we will be developing the meaningful client for us in the future and that we will make a couple of bucks. And then we have RenRe Advisors that we have that help solve complex problems for people primarily in the energy and public utility sectors. These guys are highly regarded and they won a bunch of awards too.

Okay, management capital, light risk, right capital, right time. So expand on that theme a little bit. You know, a fair amount of people have started the side cars. So what we will do you have like the DaVinci Re and Top Layer Re that are very long-term players. Then they might be a specific need in lets say Florida typically, where Florida just chooses up capital. You know, it's a high risk area and so we have matched up several times now with Starbound and (inaudible) Re III, where we’ve matched up more short-term capital.

Year to time, the client knows that capital is only going to be there for one year and may or may not be there next year. We may dissolve it and then the capital that’s providing that capital does it short-term. But you don’t ever want to get short-term capital matched up with the long-term need and you need to make sure that everybody understands what the other party is interested in doing here. So for example RenRe, you got public investors that invest in us. You take DaVinci Re, there could be pension funds endowments, financial, investors, it could be clients invest in DaVinci Re, and you might have noticed that our ownership with the DaVinci Re has gone down a little bit over the last 18 months.

The reason for that is we’ve just had some terrific investors come along, people that have come to us, also people that we have sourced that we think are very good long-term players. And then we have Top Layer Re on the right where there are only two parties. So we call that a bilateral agreement and then the side cars the typically the two types of capital in the middle and then we also have something called CPPs which are clients survivors that have enjoyed doing business with us, but think we have a pretty good business and they said I wouldn’t mind be on your side of the deal and those are people that are provided the CPPs. They are kind of like a quota share. They are notional quarter shares where people say this is how much I am willing to place a bet. And that’s very helpful for us and it has become a pretty significant source of capital.

History of our joint venture, so you can see with Top Layer Re we started that back in 1999. We also give some work with OPCat which was a sub UPS back in the year 2000. But you can just see these march along. Recently we had Upsilon Re I and II that have worked out quite nicely for us that’s specializing in writing property cat retro session.

Capital and investments; so on the left this is our capital structure and when we say capital structure what capital are we bringing to bear to solve problems for our clients. So the part of DaVinci that we don’t own is the redeemable part, when we come down to have an undrawn revolver, we have debt, we have preferred equity, we have common of little over 3 billion. So we have total capitalization of about 5 billion. But as I mentioned to you before with the backing with State Farm and Top Layer Re that’s roughly another $4 billion. And this doesn't take into account the value of property cat retro or CPPs. So we play ball as if we got about $10 billion of capital, when in fact we only have $3 billion of common equity.

We have historically done a good job on reserving and are very pleased. We were put in an awkward position after sandy, because we have an earnings call pretty soon after that, and so we put out on those, we told folks that we would have a significant loss (inaudible) will notice. But we didn't say material and there is this finance lingo about what this different things means. So we got the groups together and looked at it and said, do you think it will contained in the fourth quarter and everybody calls for hard, hope to die and we think we can, we have a little bit of margin on that.

So we stuck our neck out and said, it will be contained in the fourth quarter. So we found that later that some people got telephone calls like, how can they know that so quick, they’re going to blow through it. Will somebody very kindly see well this is RenRe and if they say that you can take it to the bank? And I remember my friend here Mr. Jay Cowen on the call, I said I think it will be contained in the fourth quarter and Jay said we need to be cleared will this loss will be contained in the fourth quarter, and I said yes Jay and it will be contained in the fourth quarter, and I said well we will contain it in the fourth quarter.

And so far so good, it has been and I think we have done a good job deserving on that as we have done on others. So now if you look at these two blocks, we got case reserves which is basically the reserves we have. They are supposed to find what our clients tell us what losses would be, and then on top of that we have additional case reserves where we think maybe our clients are being a little bit too optimistic and also IBNR and it really doesn't matter too much how you break those out but that's, we don't have just big (inaudible) we go down and we look at the individual deals, we model them. So we go back to the individual case and figure out. So we think we are adequately reserved and fortunately historically we have been.

Active capital management over time. So you can see, someone else is on vacation and the guys went out and diluted shareholders by raising capital. But when I was here and we bought shares back and I like buying shares back since I have been back in ’05, look at all of the bars down here. I think we had somewhere around 75 million shares when I got back and now we have 42 million, 43 million something like that.

So now all of our shareholders more of (inaudible) and we have bought the shares back I think at an attractive price. Now you can issue shares. I mean the guys did a good job. They had so many opportunities to issue shares but I'm very loathed to do that. I don't like giving away part of our company. And this has been part of our strategy since we started the company way back in 1993. And this will continue over time I would imagine.

Investment portfolio, pretty boring stuff for the most part, we do have other investments that include some private equity and some cap bonds etcetera but for the most part you know, we need to be liquid in short-term than highly rated because you never know when we are going to have to pony up some money.

So nothing terribly exciting about that slide, fortunately. So this looks like we are coming to the conclusion. I don't know if we have to do that again, that again, that again, that again, that again I think that's all I need to say. I think we've got a great company, we are in a great position, terrific employees.

And with that, I'll open up for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Unidentified Analyst

Question about if you look out over the next five or 10 years, I think right now you are seeing income its roughly $140 million to $150 million a year, if you would stay in a most likely scenario five or 10 years from now, do you think that number will be meaningfully higher and if so, do you think it will come from the permanent side cars, temporary side cars?

Neill Currie

That's the best question I've heard in a long time. So you've done your homework, I can't legitimize your number there, it doesn't sound wildly often. I guess a few years ago we made that number public. We don't make a habit of doing that but it is meaningful to the returns of the company.

I would guess that it will be higher over the next five or 10 years as to the mix between the near-term and the short term, I mean the long-term versus the one-year side car sort of thing, my hope that it would be more on the lines of permanent pipeline, it looks like a top priority in the venture. I think that's more valuable to our clients, it takes us hard, I mean you know the ramp up time for those relationships take a while, but if I had to guess, I would guess that it would be more meaningful and it would be more of the permanent type partnerships.

Unidentified Analyst

I did have a question on, you talked about this trend of alternative capital coming in, it feels as if there could a big opportunity for you guys to use some of those capitals that might have a lower cost of capital than you would, freeing up capital if you do other things like buyback stock.

Neill Currie


Unidentified Analyst

Have you increased your use of third-party capital as far as exceeding risk to those parties?

Neill Currie

Yes, it sounds like the Martians are landing here. So I guess I will have to answer that question. Yes, according to what time period you look at. So first of all, another good question, Jay as you always have good questions. I would say a quick digression is one of the things that sets us apart is we get questions like what you wish, don’t you wish this or wish that. We don’t wish anything. What I wish is that no matter what comes along, we can handle it. So we play the hand that we are dealt. So we consider and say oh, my gosh, third-party capital is coming here, they are going to take our business away. Well with me its not going to happen. Let’s say here is third-party capital. It's interest, and how can we be involved or we can be involved by having them come in and be investors in our various relationships where we can buy reinsurance from these folks.

Another area that I think we will be doing more of is being a transformer. People like doing business with RenRe. They know we pay their claims. So if there is new capital that comes along, it looks like good capital but how do we know? They are new. They maybe might drag their heels in terms of paying their claims or pull out some technicality and then a lot of the third-party capital because underwriting is very difficult to do to underwrite indemnity, protection is hard and the clients like it because they are no basic risk.

So you got a seller or the new capital says well I’d like to provide industry loss (inaudible), because then I can get my head around that, like I can guess how often I think a $20 billion Florida that’s going to happen, but I can’t guess, how often that deal is going to get hit. We can and we can be a transformer for that. So while you got third-party capital comes in and they might offer 100 million of capital on an ILW basis, the client wants to buy indemnity, we will sell indemnity out of the back door, use this as our collateral because we will get a margin for our expertise and taking the additional risk.

So we will see more of this and we will utilize more of this third party capital, and our retrocession buying has not finished with the year. We have done some - my guess is it will be some opportunities that will come up to help us make a bit more efficient over the coming months. And yes I still think Sandy is going to be contained in the fourth quarter.

Unidentified Speaker

We got about a 10-15 minutes break to grab some lunch. We have MetLife coming up in about 15 minutes. Thanks.

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