Reinsurance is insurance that is purchased by an insurance company (the "ceding company" or "cedant" or "cedent" under the arrangement) from one or more other insurance companies (the "reinsurer") as a means of risk management, sometimes in practice including tax mitigation and other reasons described below. The ceding company and the reinsurer enter into a reinsurance agreement which details the conditions upon which the reinsurer would pay a share of the claims incurred by the ceding company. The reinsurer is paid a "reinsurance premium" by the ceding company, which issues insurance policies to its own policyholders.

The reinsurer may be either a specialist reinsurance company, which only undertakes reinsurance business, or another insurance company.

For example, assume an insurer sells 1000 policies, each with a $1 million policy limit. Theoretically, the insurer could lose $1 million on each policy – totaling up to $1 billion. It may be better to pass some risk to a reinsurer as this will reduce the ceding company's exposure to risk.

There are two basic methods of reinsurance:

  1. Facultative Reinsurance, which is negotiated separately for each insurance contract that is reinsured. Facultative reinsurance is normally purchased by ceding companies for individual risks not covered, or insufficiently covered, by their reinsurance treaties, for amounts in excess of the monetary limits of their reinsurance treaties and for unusual risks. Underwriting expenses, and in particular personnel costs, are higher for such business because each risk is individually underwritten and administered. However as they can separately evaluate each risk reinsured, the reinsurer's underwriter can price the contract to more accurately reflect the risks involved.
  2. Treaty Reinsurance means that the ceding company and the reinsurer negotiate and execute a reinsurance contract. The reinsurer then covers the specified share of all the insurance policies issued by the ceding company which come within the scope of that contract. The reinsurance contract may oblige the reinsurer to accept reinsurance of all contracts within the scope (known as "obligatory" reinsurance), or it may require the insurer to give the reinsurer the option to reinsure each such contract (known as "facultative-obligatory" or "fac oblig" reinsurance).

There are two main types of treaty reinsurance, proportional and non-proportional, which are detailed below. Under proportional reinsurance, the reinsurer's share of the risk is defined for each separate policy, while under non-proportional reinsurance the reinsurer's liability is based on the aggregate claims incurred by the ceding office.

In the past 30 years there has been a major shift from proportional to non-proportional reinsurance in the property and casualty fields.

Read more about Reinsurance:  Functions, Contracts, Fronting, Markets, Reinsurers, Retrocession

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