Huge rate rises means cash is pouring into insurance - with Bermuda taking the lion's share... Jason Woolfe asks, however, whether the capital is just lazing in the sun just before returning to the London Market.

More money has been ploughed into insurance over the past two months than for years previously.

Billion-pound behemoths have sprung up seemingly overnight as investment banks, venture capitalists and institutional investors leap on the insurance bonanza bandwagon.

The key that has unlocked their vaults is the chance to profit from some of the biggest rate hikes the market has seen for decades.

But are some of them forgetting the very reason for the magnitude of the increases?

The insurance industry is currently saddled with the biggest single loss event in its history.

So how much of the new cash is really going to be used to jump on the rising rates bandwagon, and how much is going to be used to pay the frighteningly huge bills?

Some say the capital-raising game is simply a cash call by another name.

And it's difficult to ignore that the biggest of the new kids on the block are throwing their money where they think it will work hardest - in Bermuda.

Can the London Market remain competitive against this exciting new cash cow?

Insurance analyst David Hudson of HSBC says he has been watching the market for too long to be entirely taken in by the sales talk.

Hudson says: "It's all very well and good focusing on rates going up.

"How much of it is to raise money to take advantage and how much is to pay the claims?"

He warns markets are in danger of being lulled into forgetting the very nature of the business they were investing in.

Dangers ahead
Analyst David Nisbet of Deutsche Bank says: "It's a combination of the two and I'm not sure it's even possible to differentiate between them.

"Companies' balance sheets have weakened and they need more capital just to stay still in the market."

He dismisses the idea of the capital-raising being a cloaked cash-call as "mere semantics".

Some companies have ring-fenced new funds so investors know their money will not be used to pay old claims. And start-ups, by definition, avoid the problem entirely.

But, like Hudson, Nisbet is conscious of the dangers inherent in the risk industry.

"One has to be realistic. Rates, particularly in reinsurance, are going to be very strong but against that is the argument that the world is a riskier place than it was two or three months ago."

Investors would do well to mind his words.

And some industry figures can see good omens for the London Market, even if Bermuda does seem to be swallowing the vast majority of new investment.

Lloyd's-based Leadenhall Insurance Consultants director Karen Sinden says: "It's a lot easier to start a company in Bermuda and we also have the changing regulatory system, N2, which could complicate the situation.

"How much of that money will come back to support underwriting in the London Market?"

International Underwriting Association chief executive Marie-Louise Rossi sees a precedent that could provide an answer to Sinden's question.

"Look at the new capital that went to Bermuda in the early 1990s. It started new businesses such as XL Mid Ocean and Ace. They've all got London Market operations now.

"Bermuda has regulatory and tax advantages which the UK can't compete with, but the UK has a concentration of expertise and existing capital."

So could some of the Bermudan billions be heading back across the Atlantic to the UK in the future?

"It happened the last time," Rossi says.