R&SA charts a brave new course, there's a plan for EL and the FSA gets tough on risk transfer - and all before the summer tans have faded, says Elliot Lane
September is traditionally a month when things get done , as executives return from their holidays refreshed and focussed - and this year is no exception.
Just two weeks into September and three major events have already come to pass. R&SA's new chief executive Andy Haste has revealed his plan after a five month review, the ABI has pronounced on employers' liability and the FSA has unveiled a major part of its rulebook for broker regulation.
Starting with the latter, the FSA has taken a harder line than before. Whereas previous pronouncements have seen the FSA give way to brokers' demands, intermediaries have failed, this time around, to head off plans on risk transfer. So it's business as usual but with a twist. Big brokers will have a new non-statutory trust for client monies that will allow them flexibility.
The cost is a minimum £50,000 deposit and the trusts will be vetted. For the rest, a statutory fund with a lower threshold.
Haste's review has been stringent and will hopefully help the company retain its A minus rating with Standard and Poor's. That is what brokers are watching. As one observer said last week, you can feel only pity for anyone at the helm of R&SA: "It has been around since the 1700s in one form or another, so it's exposed to everything." Finance director Julian Hance bore the brunt of its poor performance though he does leave - when benefits such as pension, share options and the golden goodbye of £250,000 are taken into account - with roughly £1.7m, which beats former group chief executive Bob Mendelsohn's pay-off.
And Mendelsohn's legacy is still being paid for . On his watch, R&SA signed what was described as "the worst deal ever" on the most "unattractive terms" with reinsurer Munich Re. The quota share arrangement was negotiated quickly and helped the insurer see through a difficult time when the ex-chief executive Paul Spencer shored up the asbestos reserves around Autumn last year.
Combined ratios for commercial lines and personal lines improved slightly but the question remains: is More Th>n really a success? R&SA's results stated overall strategy for personal lines is "direct distribution and selected intermediated lines". This can only mean more money for the direct arm which has yet to justify in returns what has been spent on advertising. The question is: how is Lucky, not where is he.
Conservative estimates put the marketing spend north of £60m.
The move also means the insurer will be less reliant on brokers.
The ABI's initiative for assessing health and safety schemes has been welcomed by trade associations.
The British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF) said this week that it welcomed the opportunity to translate good health and safety practice into real savings for its members.
The insurance industry has been applauded for recognising the lowered risk of quantified good practice.
But while insurers say the scheme will lead to lower EL premiums for participants in the scheme, how soon will small businesses really start to see the benefits?
Insurers have refused to peg reductions in EL premiums to implementation of the ABI's best practice guidelines, and instead talk of the "time delay" before members of trade associations involved in the scheme start getting cheaper quotes for EL cover.
One insurer said this week that it could be two years before small businesses start to see their EL premiums fall. That could be two years too late for some.