High-level management changes in the top insurance companies will mean uncertainty, but they might prompt innovation too, says Andy Cook
Over the past six months, 20% of the top 15 insurance companies have lost their chief executives. Just before Christmas, Andy Homer and AXA went their separate ways.
Last month, Homer was followed by Tony Lancaster, the chairman and chief executive of Groupama and last week Royal & SunAlliance's UK chief executive Paul Spencer was replaced by UK commercial managing director Duncan Boyle. In the meantime, Barry Smith has quietly taken the helm at Fortis and Ian Geden has taken the reins at NFU Mutual.
While all these changes make the non-life industry as stable in management terms as the Premiership, the frightening thing is that this could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Patrick O'Sullivan is tipped to move onwards and upwards at Zurich, while his boss Sandy Leitch moves to Switzerland to run the group worldwide. And Allianz Cornhill's Ray Treen is likely to retire soon.
With my pint half-empty, all these changes will lead to a period of instability. Brokers and their customers could be left high and dry as strategies change.
In the wake of Norwich Union's latest, excellent figures will the new bosses be tempted to refine their books - cutting out unprofitable areas and retrenching to more predictable business? The answer for some will undoubtedly be yes.
But with my pint half-full, all these changes could herald an era of innovation.
Duncan Boyle, Royal & SunAlliance's new chief executive, has already had a dynamic effect on the company since his arrival from Australia just over two years ago. AXA's Peter Hubbard has a major strategy review underway that is expected to improve service standards and Groupama's Pierre Lefevre is bound to bring some fresh thinking from his recent experiences in the Dutch market.