Rebrand hinges on parent company deal with BNP Paribas

Fortis Insurance UK could change its name after its parent group’s banking division is sold to BNP Paribas later this year if shareholders give the go ahead, writes Angelique Ruzicka.

“You can’t have an insurance company owned by a group of shareholders with the same trading name as a bank which could go to BNP Paribas,” said Barry Smith, chief executive of Fortis UK. “At some stage the insurance company’s name could change at the holding company level.”

Fortis UK announced that it more than doubled its profits to £76m for 2008 compared with the £30m it posted for 2007. Non-life gross written premium was slightly up to £760m from the £758m it reported in 2007.

The insurer added that it had a strong capital position of £346m and that its pricing volume and discipline had been maintained.

Fortis reported a non-life combined operating ratio after investment income improved to 92.2% (98.1% in 2007). The life business, launched in July last year, brought in 11,600 customers and £2.77m of new annual premium. Total broker income for the retail businesses was up 1.2% to £95m.

Smith said Fortis UK’s “good shape” was down to three key elements: the focus on customers, partners and distributors, continuity and the strength of the staff. “We have been very clear on what we stand for and how we see our business developing. We have been very consistent in the way we have expanded our business.”

Smith added that Fortis would not cut ties with MGAs as some of its peers had done.

“Limited MGAs will form part of what we do going forward. [Working with] MGAs is one aspect of growth. What will underpin our growth will be continued service performance, a widening of products and, inevitably, consideration of the customer focus on buying what they want.”

Fortis UK simultaneously announced that it has joined with Heath Lambert to secure a five-year deal with Post Office Financial Services (POFS) to launch SME products.

The products, which include shop, office, homeworker, property owners and tradesman,will initially be sold via the Crown and agency network.

“We have been expanding our commercial line product range over the past few years and we intend to continue this. Fleet is being piloted with a number of brokers as we speak,” said Smith.