Tom Broughton looks at the FSA's stance oncommision disclosure

Next week the FSA is expected to release a consultation document looking at potential conflicts of interests in the insurance market. Since the turn of the year Hector Sants and his team of bureaucrats have been hanging this issue over the market’s head like a giant hammer. Much to the annoyance of industry representatives Sants decided to extend the commission disclosure debate and use it as a vehicle to tackle what is a complex and changing issue. But what really can the FSA do? Extend or tighten existing regulation? Intervene in the market to stop broker consolidation? Or up the ante and plan more unannounced, snooping visits and clampdowns to ensure the market is broking in the right circles?

Markets tend to have a habit of regulating themselves and although it doesn’t feel like it right now the large volume of deals dripping through the system will eventually slow as the cheap money dries up. And with insurer reserves taking a battering (see page 8) you only have to listen to the parade of insurer bosses exasperated with this soft market to realise that the green shoots of rate increases will continue to be watered. You would imagine that with the current global banking turmoil and the aftermath of the Northern Rock fiasco the insurance sector is not firmly in the FSA’s focus right now. But that is not to say that a first step towards more archaic regulatory burdens is not out of the question and the status quo should not be taken for granted. Transparency is the key for this market and self regulation is the only option. How this happens will be down to not only how professional the dealmakers at the heart of the sector can remain but crucially how the UK economy is performing when the FSA is finally ready to make a decision and end the uncertainty for everyone.

The South West is going through a transformation. (See pages 19-24). Its unofficial capital, Bristol, is seeing vast development and business is flocking to the region lured by shiny new buildings, a growing financial centre and rural way of life. This week, Danny Walkinshaw’s report from the area launches our new, monthly series taking an in-depth look at regional insurance markets and assessing how the big national issues impact on them. What’s more, following our coverage we will rank the top 20 brokers in each region and keep you up to date with the latest news and trends from across the UK. IT