But the rumour mills are grinding out new fears, says Andy Cook

This year is set to be a landmark year in the history of Lloyd's. The new franchise system is raring to go, backed by a board of fine internal talent and some outsiders too.

Lord Levene, an outsider, will also provide some fresh thinking in the market and, no doubt, help Lloyd's attain a better public profile than it has enjoyed recently.

One of the first challenges facing Lord Levene and his new board is consolidation. Rumours are flying around the bars of Leadenhall about who will merge with whom.

Following successful capital raisings by the likes of Wellington and grand investments made into some managing agencies from the US and Bermuda, a few agencies have been left behind in terms of scale.

Of course there has always been talk of mergers between some of the smaller, listed agencies, but the pressure is bearing down now. It is no secret that SVB, for instance, has been looking to raise significant investment, but has failed to do so. Hence a new chief executive.

The answer to that riddle could well be a merger with, say, Hardy, Chaucer or Goshawk. The result would be a player of real strength into which investors might well be prepared to funnel large sums.

A more testing scenario for Lord Levene is looming on the horizon. It seems that syndicates are still owed billions of pounds of premium from up to a decade ago.

And with new accounting rules being worked up, syndicates are trying desperately to get their books up to date. That means pressure on brokers to chase up the cash that is owed.

The biggest brokers have set up specific highly-staffed projects in order to chase the premiums.

But the premiums are proving elusive. Will syndicates be forced into writing off millions of pounds?

Only time will tell.