Tom Broughton, editor comments on the economic crisis.

What does the global financial crisis mean for your business? Within the magazine this week, you’ll find a variety of answers from leading players in the industry. The themes that recur are exposure, opportunity, certainty, confidence and reassurance – all wrapped up in a dose of old-fashioned pragmatism.

Exposure is often the first concern as chief executives ask how bad it is for them, or try to predict the extent of the turmoil around the corner. Some quickly formulate a strategy based on the events rocking global stock markets right now. HSBC, for example, looks set to sell chunks of its insurance business as it prepares to batten down the hatches.

Other players, so far immune from the heat, are looking to limit their exposure and convert it into the land of opportunity (for more on AIG, see Michael Faulkner’s article in our new web-only product, Insurance Agenda).

But for most in this market, the priority is to restore certainty and confidence. Barry Smith, chief executive of Fortis Insurance, said this week his clients had responded “fantastically well” to the rescue of the Fortis parent company by the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. He has reassured brokers that business will continue as usual.

The policyholders and customers of the likes of Bradford & Bingley and Fortis are not the only ones who need reassurance. So too do the consultants, the supply-chain partners, the SMEs and the man and woman on the street who are trying to plan for the year ahead. The latest CBI trend analysis from consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers (see right) suggests profits and business volumes within general insurance will decrease in the next quarter and beyond – no surprise there. And for those who have not grasped it already, 2009 is looking like a depressing place.

But amid all the short-term tactics of companies in distress trying to shore up clients and staff, we must remember that this crisis will eventually hit its nadir and the whole process of informed, sound business planning, based on familiar clients and corporate strengths, will begin again.

That’s not going to happen soon, but what we do know is that you need to be ready for it.