Tom Broughton looks at Aviva's stand against the consolidators.
Aviva boss Igal Mayer wants the power games to stop and a new spirit of realism brought back to the market. And why shouldn’t he? Just nine months into the job Mayer has inherited relationships where consolidator power has been king and the only clear play in his armoury has been a defensive one. He has been forced to watch as broking giants declare their ambitions and seek to follow the Towergate niche of leverage and empires, all largely at the expense of major insurers. And on the ground after a summer of flood claims in 2007, the warnings over rate levels and reserves have been loud and clear but still the market is soft with no sign of traction. So where does it leave us? Well first, the strong message back from the broker community will be simply to say: ‘you should have been careful of what you wished for’. The argument goes that it was the insurers in the first place who were happy to pay enhanced commissions for a greater power over the distribution chain albeit in return for a steady income stream. And it is only now that the soft market and this period of economic uncertainty have the negotiations on commissions become as brutal as the market it operates in. So put simply, something has had to give. The context to this is that insurers globally have been restructuring their businesses for growth and managing numerous drivers such as capital issues, tax efficiencies as well as understanding the European regulatory regime. There is just not the will to be continually put on the back foot from a handful of consolidators who seek to be the next generation of power players in the UK market. Igal Mayer has been watching all this very closely and preparing for change. Norwich Union rebranded this week to take the name of its parent Aviva. And with its house in order, the Aviva giant has been stirred, the key questions now is just how far is it going to flex its muscles to get what it wants? And what is its appetite to do it?