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Is it Au revoir Rendez-Vous?

September 9, 2021

For over 60 years, this weekend would have seen the global reinsurance community packing its bags ready to descend on Monte Carlo, that playground of wealthy tax exiles on the French Riviera. This year, as last year, those bags will remain unpacked as the annual Rendez-Vous de Septembre has been cancelled in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The question now being asked in hushed tones around the London Market is: Will it ever return?

For two years the reinsurance market has happily managed its annual renewal season without the need for 3000 expense account fuelled brokers, reinsurers, insurers, consultants and journalists to descend on the Principality of Monaco for its second largest annual event after the Formula 1 Grand Prix. 

The Rendez-Vous has survived several major transitions in the way the market operates since its first event in 1957. As the real work of the renewal season edged closer to the end of the year, fewer and fewer deals were struck in the cafés and bars around the Place du Casino in mid-September but the value of face-to-face conversations in setting the mood for the season remained strong. It also gave new entrants the opportunity to start building relationships with key players and for awkward conversations about rates and terms to be initiated in a convivial environment.

For two years all of that has been done in the new virtual world we inhabit, one that only existed in science fiction when the Rendez-Vous started. 

Many firms are already looking at the money they have saved by not sending an army of senior people to Monte Carlo and are quietly re-assessing the value of the event. In this era of heightened concern about climate change, they will also be looking very hard at the carbon footprint of global travel. Dramatically reducing the numbers of people flying to the south of France is an easy win in their drive to be net zero carbon emitters.

Does this mean the Rendez-Vous is dead?

Probably not yet, but on the assumption the organisers attempt to put it on next year I expect we will see a greatly reduced presence. It may well be the beginning of the end.

Of course, the die-hards will be there and I expect most firms will send small teams to ensure they have a presence. One of the first questions they will be asked on their return to their offices is “Was it worth it?”. Their bosses won’t be looking for anecdotes about glitzy cocktail parties but hard evidence of demonstrable business value. So, 2022 might be just a much-reduced shadow of past bonanzas. 2023 could be the year that the Rendez-Vous de Septembre really starts to struggle if the organisers cannot find a new magic formula.

I don’t take any great pleasure in saying this, especially as I have many fond memories of my handful of forays into the hard-bargaining, hard-gossiping, hard-drinking world of the Rendez-Vous. But the world moves on and it looks increasingly as if the Rendez-Vous is becoming a relic of the past.

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