Insurance and the Titanic

           The Titanic tested the insurance industry. Ships of its luxury and scale were novel, bringing into question the correct pricing for insurance coverage on such a ship. In the end, it seemed that underwriters underpriced the risk, since when the Titanic’s sister ship Olympic secured coverage for its next transatlantic crossing after Titanic’s sinking, the

Ivar Kreuger

           What do matches and money have in common? Not much perhaps, except that one man seemed an especially powerful supplier of each. Ivar Kreuger is possibly the person whose fame has diminished the most in the last century of financial history. During the 1920s, he was one of the largest creditors, and borrowers, in the

George Peabody

           One of the most famous American bankers in history, John Pierpont Morgan, got his start not in New York but in London. There, his father was a partner in a firm founded by another American abroad, George Peabody. Peabody was born poor and received very little education; after finding success in business in America, he

Bank of Credit and Commerce International

           Globalization in finance has allowed the emergence of global banks, able to participate with ease in different markets around the world as barriers to the international flow of capital have been dismantled. However, global banks are not as easily regulated as those constrained to a single country, especially when closer international cooperation amongst regulatory and

September 1939

           The world changed when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. The event had consequences in financial markets as well and not only in Germany and the other belligerent countries. In neutral and warring countries alike, central banks and other public authorities addressed the sudden financial problems, most notably in foreign exchange and credit markets. In

Philately and Investment

            Stamp collecting came about soon after the postage stamp itself. While the first postage stamp was introduced in 1840, within twenty-five years one could find for sale in London or Paris some of the earliest stamp albums, catalogues, and magazines. In recent decades, stamp collecting has garnered attention from more than just philatelic enthusiasts;

Merchant Sailors

           Long sea voyages were among the largest privately undertaken ventures in the early modern world. Financing them led to the creation of some of the first joint stock companies and the task of insuring them made marine insurance one of the first modern insurance products available. Yet the sailors involved are easily overlooked, but they

The World Bank’s Pandemic Bonds

           Insurance works courtesy of the law of large numbers. Every year, some number of homes burn down and some proportion of cars crash and these events may be unpredictable to any one insured person. To an insurer though, the occurrence of such mishaps across their portfolios is actually quite predictable. However, insurers also have a

Cornelius Vander Starr

           Governments had to come to the rescue of many firms during the 2007-09 financial crisis and one of the largest rescues was that of American International Group (AIG). Unlike most of the other firms teetering on the brink, AIG was an insurance company and not a bank. It was also a particularly international firm; not

Crédit Lyonnais and Executive Life

           In 1995, the French government chose to rescue a bank at a cost of $35 billion which had secretly and illegally acquired another firm earlier that decade without regulators noticing. The bank falsified financial statements and had been drifting towards riskier activities for years. Making this story even more surprising was that all this illegal

Argentina, Barings, and the Panic of 1890

           In search of higher returns elsewhere, European investors in the 19th century increasingly coveted the bonds of South American borrowers. In Argentina, foreign money helped finance national improvements and government deficits. Arranging much of this financing was one of the oldest London merchant banks, Barings Brothers & Co. When the boom years ended and the

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