Amid the seasonal pressure our image is taking another battering, says Andy Cook
When does the pressure ever let up? Christmas was, as usual, a frantic time for brokers and insurers but with the added spice, again, of restricted capacity. While problems are nowhere near on the same scale as last year, brokers faced the prospect of passing on yet more price increases to their clients. And insurers have been facing yet more angry phone calls from brokers anxiously demanding some attention.
In the London Market, the pressure was exacerbated by new US terrorism legislation which has forced underwriters to amend terms, conditions and prices for most property policies in the States.
Now that the pressure of renewals is subsiding and the terrorism work is on the wane, then the heavens open, pushing the property claims teams into overdrive.
On the ledger of insurance industry publicity, all of the above can be considered positive ticks in the book. OK, there will be some clients that are none too happy to be paying double-digit inflation, but it is preferable to last year's triple-digit price ramps.
But there are some dark clouds on the horizon. As John Jackson points out above, the industry scored a couple of own goals between Christmas and New Year. Indeed, the story that appeared on the front page of The Sun is a screaming 30-yarder into the top left-hand corner, even though the insurer in question - Lloyds TSB - seemed to have been treated harshly.
The aftermath of the Ward Evans collapse is also looking like a public relations disaster waiting to happen. As with the collapse of Independent, we are facing a raft of pretty unhappy clients being chased for premiums that they have paid, in this case to Ward Evans, but not passed on to the insurer. And, as the clients are commercial customers, they are not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Oh dear.
It seems that many of the insurers have drawn a line under the loss and are prepared to take the hit as a gesture of goodwill. That's great for our reputation and the industry must tell the world. Can we avoid such an unpalatable cost in the future? It is rumoured that some insurers are owed up to £750,000 and in today's economic climate that is a significant sum. Is it time for the FSA to consider a compensation scheme for commercial clients?