Tom Broughton, editor
Unfounded rumours about the future of Quinn Insurance have been swirling around the market for months. The intense and sustained briefing from brokers and insurers has almost become a story in itself. During that time, Quinn has kept its counsel, even after a series of events that put the business in the media spotlight. Aside from a fine from the Irish regulator for making “unauthorised loans” to Quinn group companies to buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank, there was a board restructure and a scaling back of its ambitions in continental Europe.
Don’t forget, all this took place at a time when the market was desperate to find out what would happen next in the financial crisis. Was another AIG on the cards? Would AIG itself survive? Many key players were under some kind of duress in this period and few of them said anything about it in public. Three months on, however, the speculation about Quinn’s future has not gone away and brokers want some kind of reassurance. A couple of weeks ago, Quinn acknowledged what was happening in the City’s bars and coffee shops, suggesting other insurers were attempting to use the whispers to harden the market. Its rivals might also claim that Quinn is just too competitive on price, although the company insists this is not the case.
Perhaps the insurer is simply an easy target for the market gossips, given that its founder is one of Ireland’s most prominent businessmen and its richest man. Since Quinn pitched up in the UK in 2003, it has attracted its fair share of unwanted headlines and scrutiny, for a variety of reasons.
Quinn’s message now is a simple one, however. It is business as usual and its chief executive, Colin Morgan, will be using his latest round of routine broker meetings next month to emphasise the point. He says on page 16: “We didn’t start the rumours, so we don’t know where they came from. I don’t want to give them credibility.” But whether the speculation is credible or not, he must deal with it. This market is watching very closely indeed.