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The concept of 'reinsurance' is quite an interesting one. It comes down to the same sort of logic as 'who will guard the guards?' - in this case who will insure the insurers. The answer is, other insurers.

The idea is similar to the fact that bookmakers who take a massive bet lay off some of the money with other bookmakers so that if they lose the bet they can offset their losses by getting some winnings back from another bookmaker they bet some of the money with. Similarly reinsurance allows insurance companies to manage their risk exposure by purchasing insurance from another insurance company. This process results in something called a reinsurance agreement being produced between the two companies.

Sometimes reinsurance might be offered by another insurance company or by a specialist reinsurance provider that only deals in that particular business.

Risk transfer or risk mitigation is clearly a very attractive reason to consider using reinsurance, but there are other reasons too that can make it an attractive proposition. One of these is to smooth income simply because reducing risk means that the size of any losses are subdued (as are possible gains) and so overall income can be smoothed. It may also be possible to arbitrage a position through the purchase of reinsurance in some cases, for instance it could be the case that the reinsurer has a cost advantage from the power of economies of scale, or simply be willing to take on more risk.

So that is a basic outline of what reinsurance is, and why many insurance companies look to it for various reasons.

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