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Risk All Star: Simon Argent

Country Credit Risk Guru

When Argentina’s economy sank into a severe depression in 1998 and stayed there until 2002, business leaders everywhere realized they needed a better way to understand global credit and country risk.

Simon Argent, senior vice president and head of credit risk management, XL Catlin

XL Insurance, now known as XL Catlin, started working on the challenge and is still at it. Simon Argent, the company’s senior vice president and head of credit risk management, heads a team that created a global credit and country risk aggregation framework.

The framework, created using a mixture of vendor models and proprietary platforms, gives insurance and reinsurance leaders in all of XL Catlin’s businesses a much better look at where they should consider growing their businesses. It also lets them know where they should be moving more conservatively.

“We realized that we needed to be as competent in this space as we were in dealing with natural catastrophes such as fires and earthquakes,” Argent said.

He describes the framework as a “living, breathing thing,” that stays vibrant due to transparent communication between XL Catlin’s various business leaders across the globe and those charged with understanding and managing the company’s enterprise risk.

“When it works, the sum is greater than its parts,” Argent said of the global team of XL Catlin employees that maintains and builds the framework.

“I think we have a very good cross-section of experience and expertise and it fits nicely into all of the aspects that we manage,” Argent said.

Fid Norton, XL Catlin’s deputy chief enterprise risk officer, said the creation of the country and credit risk management framework is an example of the kind of collaboration and shared vision that leaders of XL and Catlin envisioned when the two companies merged back in 2015.

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“Fortunately, XL and Catlin had a lot in common, which is why we got together in the first place,” said Norton, who sees himself as occupying an advisory or mentoring role for those, including Argent, who are assigned responsibility for monitoring and reporting on corporate-wide credit and country risks.

“We’re proud of the way we brought teams and tools together to truly do a best of both combination,” Norton said.

“We realized that we needed to be as competent in this space as we were in dealing with natural catastrophes such as fires and earthquakes.” —Simon Argent, senior vice president and head of credit risk management, XL Catlin

Given substantial industry headwinds, i.e. declining rates for quarter on quarter now, the work Argent’s team is doing is credited with keeping XL Catlin profitable for 17 straight quarters. It’s given its various business leaders better insight into risk budgeting, portfolio optimization and whether they should get involved in new business.

For his part, Argent sounds thankful that he leads a diverse, talented team and that he gets to innovate while engaging global risks, the worries over North Korea’s missile capabilities being one of the more recent examples.

“Every year we have done something that I have looked back and been able to say, ‘Wow, that was really cool, we have done something really good there,’” Argent said. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”

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Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]