Aviva's investors have been spooked by euro debt fears, but insurers' investment portfolios are typically robust
Ten per cent off Aviva's share price in one month? That’s scary stuff. As the European sovereign debt crisis deepens and spreads, insurers are feeling the effects. Share prices are plummeting – and not just at Aviva – as investors worry about insurers’ exposure to sovereign debt.
But there’s good news. While their share prices are taking a beating, insurers are unlikely to be over-exposed to sovereign debt, because of the diversity that generally characterises their investment portfolios. Moreover, this crisis has been a long time in the making and, where action was deemed necessary, much of it has already been taken.
In a recent interview with Insurance Times, European super-regulator Eiopa's chairman, Gabriel Bernardino, said that insurers’ exposure was manageable – although the regulator will continue to keep a watching brief. This echoes a recent Eiopa report, which concluded that the European insurance market had largely recovered from the financial crisis.
Going for growth
Oh good – another insurer is looking for growth in the UK commercial market, with the news that MMA Insurance is staffing up in the regions. It seems remarkable that, despite the lingering soft market and fierce competition for business, so many insurers remain convinced that there’s gold in them there hills. The constant influx of capacity is in itself holding down rates – and it’s showing no signs of stopping.
More on the merry-go-round
Interesting to see that Roy Watkinson has turned up at Ageas. The former head of underwriting at AXA, who left in Amanda Blanc's reshuffle, will have worked with Ageas chief executive Barry Smith and managing director Mark Cliff during their time at AXA, so this is a reunion of sorts. With its broker buys under its belt and the Tesco joint venture coming online, Ageas is looking like a confident, major player.