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Reinsurance is used by insurance companies to insure against any losses that they may face on a proportion of the policies held by their clients.
Quite often, reinsurance is used to insure the highest risk policies in a company's portfolio though it is mostly used to increase the amount of cover a company can offer a policy holder. For example, if a policy holder requires cover of £20 million and it is limited to writing just £15 million of cover, the insurer can reinsure (or cede) the balance of £5 million to another insurer, thereby enabling it to write the policy. Reinsurance effectively allows the insurer to take on higher risks than its capital base would normally allow.
Reinsurance companies also use reinsurance to insure the liabilities they take on when offering insurance to other companies. This is known as retrocession.
The reinsurance market is vast (in 2008 Lloyd's syndicates wrote more than £6 billion in premiums) and is a major source of employment. Jobs available at time of writing (Dec 2009) include:
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