University of Oxford Joins Willis Research Network (WRN)
--University's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment Forms Centre of Catastrophe Risk Financing and Public Policy
with Support from WRN--
LONDON, UK September 7, 2009 - The Willis Research Network (WRN), part of Willis Group Holdings Limited
(NYSE:WSH), the global insurance broker, has strengthened its position as the world's largest collaboration between academia
and the re-insurance industry by announcing the addition of Oxford University to its roster of leading
academic institutions. In keeping with its focus on groundbreaking, industry-relevant research into catastrophe risk, the WRN
will sponsor the creation of a Centre of Catastrophe Risk Financing and Public Policy at Oxford
University's Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment.
The first of its kind, the centre will examine ways in which the costs of catastrophic events
can be shared across society, equitably and sustainably, via catastrophe risk financing and sound public policy
on a local and global basis.
Commenting on the rationale behind the centre's creation, Rowan Douglas, Managing Director, Willis Re and Chairman of
the WRN, said, "Governments worldwide are struggling to share the costs of natural catastrophes across populations
at local and global levels via public and private mechanisms. Climate change and expected increases in
extreme events make this an acute concern in developed and emerging economies. And yet, until now,
no academic centre existed to provide governments and others with the science, support and solutions to
confront these issues."
The new Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, led by former
UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir David King, provided the ideal platform to create such
a centre, which fosters collaboration among leading environmental science, economics, quantitative finance, legal and business experts
to confront these challenges.
Professor Sir David King said, "This exciting initiative by Willis Re and the Smith School of Enterprise
and the Environment could not be more timely and to the point. It is a prime
example of how decision-makers in public and private enterprise can be supported in building the knowledge
and understanding so necessary to managing issues such as climate change and extreme events. We are
very grateful for the opportunity given by Willis Re to build this centre as one of
the leading sources of information for public policy on catastrophe risk management."
The WRN-sponsored Oxford-based research programme will explore ways of employing new environmental data, models and techniques to
stimulate greater confidence in catastrophe risk transactions and public policy interventions.
The centre will be led by Dr. Patrick McSharry, who is currently a member of the Oxford
Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and also heads the System Analysis, Modelling and Prediction Group
at the University's Department of Engineering Science. His work combines research in environmental and weather modelling
with applications for financial and industrial sectors. He is appointed Senior Academic within the WRN.
Dr. Cameron Hepburn, Senior Research Fellow at the Smith School and Visiting Fellow at the Grantham Institute,
LSE, will also join the centre and be appointed WRN Senior Academic. Dr. Hepburn is an
environmental economist specialising in climate policy and long-term decision-making.
The WRN will sponsor a research fellowship at Smith School's new Centre of Catastrophe Risk Financing and
Public Policy. The first Willis Research Fellow, who will be appointed from October 2009 following a
period of nomination and selection, will report to Dr. McSharry.
"With growing human and economic losses from extreme events, we need to confront the challenges of frequency
and uneven patterns across the developed and developing world," said Dr. McSharry. "Our role will be
to provide traders and policy makers with new tools and instruments to support populations in exposed
The Oxford team will be fully integrated with Willis Re, Willis Capital Markets and Advisory, and the
other members of the WRN around the world.
"This is a natural and exciting extension of the WRN, from modelling natural perils to determining ways
in which this work can be translated into enhanced risk sharing," said Mr. Douglas. "We are
proud to be supporting the new Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment under Professor Sir
David King's leadership. The School will make major contributions to getting the private sector more deeply
involved with developing global environmental solutions."
Francis Ghesquiere, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist at The World Bank in Washington, DC, commented, "We are
delighted that the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University has decided to
create the centre to help governments and populations better cope with disaster risk. It will provide
a new and important source of focussed academic expertise on these key issues."
Further support for the centre came from the World Forum of Catastrophe Programmes. David Middleton, Chief Executive
of the New Zealand Earthquake Commission and Chairman of the World Forum of Catastrophe Programmes, said,
"Oxford University's decision to form the centre is further evidence of the importance of catastrophe risk
management as a vital area of multidisciplinary applied research. We are delighted that the centre will
stimulate further science and developments for our community, and we look forward to world-class outputs."
Dr. Rui Pinho, Secretary General, Global Earthquake Model (GEM) at the EUCENTRE in Pavia, Italy, said, â€œThe
establishment at the Smith School, Oxford of a centre dedicated to research on how advances in
cat modelling can provide public and private stakeholders with tools and guidance to share the costs
of natural disasters could not come at a more timely moment. This fits perfectly with and
feeds into the global earthquake risk model development endeavour of the GEM Foundation."
The Willis Research Network (WRN) is the world's largest partnership between academia and the insurance industry. Willis
has teamed up more than 20 leading institutions across a full range of disciplines from atmospheric
science and climate statistics, to geography, hydrology and seismology, to evaluate the impacts on the environment
via engineering, exposure analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Additional information can be found at www.willisresearchnetwork.com
The WRN is funded by Willis Group Holdings Limited (NYSE: WSH), a leading global insurance broker, developing
and delivering professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to
corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly
120 countries, with a global team of approximately 20,000 Associates serving clients in some 190 countries.
Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com .