Tarred with the same brush?
3 May 2012
With some exceptions, the general picture emerging from the 2011 annual results season is one of resilience in the face of a year of almost unprecedented catastrophe losses. Unlike the aftermath of 2005 and the devastating losses incurred related to KRW, the insurance industry has not required a similar injection of new capital. As the financial services sector continues to be battered by accusations of mis-management, excessive remuneration and regulatory uncertainty perhaps now is a good time to deliver this message of resilience and again distinguish the insurance industry from other financial services sectors.
Unlike banks, insurers are in the business of risk. In an increasingly global market, London and Lloyd’s market insurers lead the way in the development and distribution of new insurance products. Industry bodies rightly champion the contribution and importance of the insurance industry to the British economy and to a widely diverse customer base at home and abroad. Unlike the banking sector, and with the exception of one notable high profile example of a leading insurance company (though, arguably not as a result of its insurance activities), the insurance industry has weathered the storm of recent financial crises and the global economic downturn. Indeed, insurers represent a significant investor class vital to the recapitalisation and restructuring of banks, other financial institutions and sovereign states.
There are headwinds - not least the uncertainty surrounding regulatory reform driven by Solvency II. In his speech at the President of the Insurance Institute of London’s Annual Lunch at the Mansion House last week, the Chairman of Lloyd’s reiterated the need for appropriate regulation – not “light touch” or less regulation – that balances the need to remain competitive and not stifle opportunities with security for all stakeholders. The principle aims of Solvency II are generally well received but some of the important details less so - perhaps reflecting the fact that the Solvency II project began long before the financial crises of recent years.
Here in the UK, and particularly so with Lloyd’s platforms, many of the key concepts such as risk based capital and improved reporting and governance systems have been in place for some time and may in fact be some of the very ingredients of the market’s resilience of late. The industry should continue to deliver this message at every opportunity.