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Life Health > Annuities > Variable Annuities

Axa cites marriage of bible’s Jacob in defending derivatives

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(Bloomberg) — To fight wrong-headed oversight, insurers traditionally turn to lobbyists and lawmakers.

Axa SA is picking up the Bible.

Some regulators have proposed restrictions on contracts that they see as new and risky. The Bible shows there is a long history of making such deals, said Christian Thimann, who joined Axa from the European Central Bank this year.

“If one looks back, one finds that derivatives are almost as old as mankind,” Thimann said yesterday at a conference held by the Institute of International Finance in Washington.

“In the Old Testament, Jacob bought an option to marry Rachel,” he said. “So there are derivatives 1,700 years before Christ.”

In the Bible, Jacob agrees to work for seven years to earn the right to marry Rachel. He’s tricked into marrying her older sister Leah, then eventually weds Rachel as well.

Thimann, who’s head of strategy and public affairs at Paris-based Axa, has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Munich. He spoke on Thursday alongside regulators and executives from New York-based MetLife Inc. and Swiss Re Ltd. at a conference panel, which focused on how to regulate insurers that operate globally.

John Hele, MetLife’s chief financial officer, said the insurer would benefit from more uniform capital rules in all the countries in which it operates.

“It would be great to have one common standard around the world,” he said. “That’s a very noble goal.”

Thimann quickly applied the lesson he drew from the Bible to the more modern retirement products offered by life insurers.

“Even variable annuities are in the U.S., since 60 years,” he said. “It’s a very difficult distinction.”


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