There's everything to play for as the leading players assess the way ahead

Let’s play test the insurance nation. It lets you add two and two to make thousands. You can avoid speculation, denial and unsatisfactory stories, but can listen to the whispers in the wind and draw your own conclusions as to the future of the market. So get out your calculators and plug these considerations into your equations:

1 RSA’s Andy Haste has spent six years turning the insurer around. He’s endured takeover speculation, seen through structural change and it’s speculated that he is planning to raise cash for an acquisition programme. Will he look at damaged insurers? Or opt for ones in a healthier state? Meanwhile, foreign investment is circling and plenty of cash is again burning holes in private investor pockets.

2 The ABI estimates that European insurers need a massive capital injection if solvency reforms are to be pushed through. So who is looking for a quick way out? And, more importantly, who has no choice but to do a deal?

3 Lex Baugh has spent a year shoring up AIG and will now rebrand it Chartis, ready for an IPO next year. Unless, of course, it can be sold off in one big chunk. Does Baugh have the energy for phase two?

4 Axa and Zurich look as if they have retrenched. Aviva is taking a deep breath after a busy year. Fortis is attempting to forget its parental difficulties and grow fast. And, led by QBE, a tranche of mid-sized and smaller insurers is vying for the top spots. In the meantime, what is Allianz up to?

5 Paul Geddes takes over RBS Insurance to do a similar job to Lex Baugh. The market predators have already picked RBSI up and tossed it around. Geddes will keep it ticking over until an opportunity emerges. Or until a new government flogs it off cheap.

6 Which chief executives are looking to get out? Who wants growth and expansion on his CV? Who wants cost-cutting and control? Who is eyeing an imminent vacancy? Where to look? Never forget: people and personalities are key in this market.

Read Lex Baugh’s story on pages 16-17 to understand the pressures of the past 12 months. He nearly called it a day, as surely did many of his peers.

There are no right or wrong answers here – it will be your workings-out that matter. Everything is up for grabs. IT