The association's new director-general must engage effectively with Brussels

The word from Down Under is that new ABI director-general Kerrie Kelly has a little bit of form. Over the past few years, she has been a serial trade association boss in Australia and has taken a knife to under-performing organisations by shedding staff, recruiting new faces and injecting a dose of high energy to accompany a barrage of press releases.

She steps, however, into big shoes. Stephen Haddrill has lobbied government hard and performed as the industry’s public face, and his legacy will be marked by his expert renegotiation of the flooding statement of principles as well as work on pleural plaques. What’s more, Haddrill’s very public warning to the government last month on the excessive capital demands of Solvency II is still ringing around Westminster as the debate surrounding its implementation gets set to take centre stage over the coming months.

City minister Lord Myners, for one, was listening. This week, we report on his appearance in front of insurance execs and journalists, where he explained the government’s thinking on Solvency II. That thinking is remarkably similar to Haddrill’s: score one to the ABI. But remember, Myners’ days may be numbered, and an incoming Conservative government may have differing priorities and less appetite to take on a fight in Brussels.

It’s all very well fighting political battles abroad, but insurers must do their bit at home too, by getting ready for Solvency II in whatever form it finally takes. As we reveal this week, actuaries will play a crucial role in this preparation, and they are already seeing wages rise beyond their wildest dreams as canny insurers sign them up early doors.

The “wait and see” brigade had better take note, or it may be too late.

All this and more will be piling up in Kelly’s in-tray right now. She will also have the task of forcing any new government and regulator to accept that insurance really should be viewed as separate to banks.

This is where her opportunity lies. Politicians and civil servants don’t have time for a fragmented approach from the insurance lobby. The landscape is changing and decision-making is becoming increasingly centralised from Brussels as cross-border regulation grows. The power brokers in Europe want to hear a single voice from the UK. Kelly will have to say the right things, and she will have to shout them loud enough. IT