At the start of this decade, bancassurance became a buzzword among investment banks and the consultants they employed. The term - the precise meaning of which is the provision of insurance and insurance-like products by banks - was constantly bandied about, usually in the context of an expected convergence of insurance and financial markets instruments.

Until 2004, the market for insurance-linked financial instruments grew steadily, with average annual cat bond issuance in the $1 billion-2

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