During the past decade, dramatic changes have taken place in insurance markets world-wide. The changes in market structure have been driven by financial services deregulation in Europe, the United States, and Japan, the globalization of financial services markets, and the convergence of the banking and insurance industries. Deregulation and globalization have led to large numbers of mergers and acquisitions involving insurance companies, both inter- and intra-national as well as inter- and intra-industry (e.g., banking and insurance). Important changes also have occurred in the distribution of insurance products, with the banc assurance and direct marketing distribution channels capturing significant market shares in many national markets. Foreign-owned insurers have achieved significant market shares in some countries, while failing to make major gains in other markets. The structure of the market also has changed dramatically in terms of the alternative organizational forms, with demutualizations reducing the importance of mutual insurers in many countries. Significant change also has taken place in markets for commercial property-liability insurance and reinsurance, where alternative risk transfer mechanisms such as captive insurance companies and securitization have begun to play a major role.
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