Your lead article "Underwriters face the axe" (Insurance Times, July 5) struck a chord with me, especially as it seemed to describe Lloyd's reaction to some of the problems I was speaking about at the Euroforum seminar reported on page 25 of your same issue.
I was at Lloyd's annual general meeting on June 29 when David Gittings outlined the action taken in the case of the 51 underperforming underwriters. I was prompted to ask Gittings the question (bearing in mind the appalling shortage of underwriting talent in the market at the moment), "What steps is Lloyd's taking to ensure that the next lot will be any better than the last lot?" The answer was not very encouraging.
While I generally support the move of the regulators at Lloyd's to rid the market of poor performers, I do not detect that there is a strategy to ensure those who are exiting the market are replaced by underwriters of better quality. However, that is more a responsibility of managing agents than the regulators.
Lloyd's Company Market competitors, which can hardly claim to have performed better, have at least recognised the problem and grasped the nettle, and have established underwriting academies and online universities to train future underwriters. Such an option is probably not affordable to the multiplicity of small businesses that comprise Lloyd's.
But something needs to be done. I would start by raising the standard of the Lloyd's Introductory Test, by demanding increased standards of knowledge and professionalism in the market-place (which are still shamefully low) and by extending the requirement that class, as well as active, underwriters are qualified at least to ACII standards to a wider group, including brokers and corporation staff.
There needs to be greater support from Lloyd's people for the work of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII). Bryan Kellett, Max Taylor and I have tried hard to raise the CII's profile at Lloyd's but, a few stalwarts apart, we have received little support.
Former managing director of
Markel Syndicate Management
and former lead underwriter for
RE Brown and Others syndicate 702
Stealing from the corpse?
Am I the only one who is depressed by the sort of statements currently emanating from insurers such as Royal & Sunalliance (R&SA) following the collapse of Independent?
Statements such as "You cannot run a commercial insurance company by piling it high and selling it cheap", as quoted in Insurance Times following a statement from their commercial underwriting manager Colin Short – does anyone know what this means?
If R&SA was stepping aside from the whole business, then those words might be worth something. If its opinion of Independent was so poor, then why has R&SA been at the front of the queue to take on Independent staff who apparently were incapable of underwriting a commercial book of business? Why have they also been quick to take on £100m of Independent business? Let's hope they are not piling it high themselves.
This is not a time for dancing on the grave of a competitor. Our customers are suffering the biggest trauma to hit our industry.
Independent is dead and gone, but it is our industry that is the loser here and R&SA should know better than to wring its hands like Uriah Heep while stealing from the corpse.
Midland Risk Management
Once every 12 months, the TV series Dallas would devote an episode to the Oil Baron's Ball, during which the Oilman of the Year would be named. In rotation, this would be won by JR or Bobby, with an occasional spicing up of the otherwise ludicrous and turgid affair when it would be dished out to Cliff Barnes. In the background, Sue Ellen would be having a drunken breakdown, quite rightly, from the strain of living within this chamber of horrors.
Everyone who watched this nonsense regarded it as just that – a hideously exaggerated fantasy world where grotesque characters lived out their shallow and meaningless lives striving for the tokens of success.
These memories have flooded back as the reprinted photos of an ebullient Michael Bright clutching his Insurer of the Year award, appearing in the financial press – as though this endorsement (sponsored by Insurance Times) was somehow indicative of something important.
In fact, all it is indicative of, unsurprisingly, is excessive cronyism.
So, as part of your campaign for improved regulation, can we please now bury this useless, pointless, idiotic and, above all, misleading award, along with Independent.
By the way, would your proposed new regulation prevent Insurance Times accepting some advertisements? For example: a double-page ad for Independent, which was known to be in trouble, depicting Dracula about to sink his teeth into a hapless broker under the slogan, "Some of our competitors suck up to you when times are good, but during a hard market, they just disappear" (Insurance Times, May 31).
Spooky or what? I suspect you have done rather well from Mr Bright's ruthless self-promotion. Hypocrisy is writ large on your regulatory campaign.
I am having the advert framed as a future classic and to remind me never to allow business to become too clever, too sexy or too full of its own hype. We don't want to find ourselves living in Dallas – Glasgow will do just fine.
The Business Insurance Bureau
Time to fill in the holes
I wonder whether any other reader has experienced the dramatic increase in "black holes" appearing in our insurance companies. Of course, we have always had them – only now their reproductive qualities can be compared to those of a rabbit.
Does anyone else feel frustrated, angry, disbelieving and totally fed up? I am not talking about the England cricket team, but the missing post the insurers have never received, and the faxes which mysteriously never arrive.
Admit it – how many of you have to re-send or re-fax information to insurance companies on a daily basis? Most of us grit our teeth and do as we are asked.
I have yet to calculate the wasted hours over the course of a year, but my guess would be 60 to 65 hours.
With email, these problems should gradually diminish but, in the meantime, the vast appetite of these "black holes" continues abated.
This letter may be light-hearted but the problem is not, and I would ask all insurance companies to look at tidying up and filling in these holes.
Not only will this make for a happy broker, but it will also reduce the number of weekly nervous breakdowns.