There was a time when scenarios involving terrorists imploding the World Trade Center, global pandemics, the flooding of major urban centers or even the melting of polar ice caps were relegated to the stuff of epic disaster films and our worst nightmares. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Today, the threat as well as the reality of such natural and man-made catastrophes seems to be increasing in number, complexity and cost–forcing companies and the insurance industry to develop real mitigation and risk transfer strategies for what was once the unthinkable. Little wonder why catastrophic risks have become the first, rather than the last, topic that CFOs, treasurers and risk managers want to discuss with their insurance brokers.

But five years after 9/11, is the global business community any more ready to take on these unthinkable risks–or worse still, the possibility of more than one of these disasters striking at once? And do the insurance and reinsurance markets possess the capital strength to absorb the potential unprecedented losses? Treasury & Risk Management's senior contributing editor Russ Banham recently sat down with the CEOs of the world's biggest insurance brokerages –Marsh, Aon and Willis– to discuss and evaluate the state of preparedness for catastrophic risk.

In September 2005, Storms was named chairman and CEO of Marsh Inc., the risk and insurance services subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. (MMC). Prior to the appointment, Storms had served as president and CEO of MMC subsidiary Mercer Human Resource Consulting. Storms has spent more than 25 years in financial services management positions in the U.S. and overseas, building an expertise in such areas as business development, client relations, marketing, operations, product development and international financial services management. Prior to joining MMC as vice chairman of Mercer in August 2004, he served as president and CEO of UBS Global Asset Management, Americas.

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