Phew! What a couple of weeks

At the end of February we announced our results. I was pleased with our numbers given the tough conditions last year. Results days are always hectic and it doesn’t matter how often I do them, it’s always interesting to hear the market feedback. This year, “sustainability” was quite a consistent theme – as in ..“yep the results look good now, but how are you going to sustain them going forward?”.

A good question as sustainability is hard – but for me it’s really important and I find myself thinking about it with all different aspects of business. Being “green” and sustainable is probably the most obvious, and we’ve done a lot as an industry recently to bring green thinking onto our agenda. We’ve played our part at R&SA. But I always try not to get too preachy about it... because I know that as a company we’ve got a long way to go before we can shout too loudly from our soapbox. This past week we finally got recycling bins in all our offices and this has definitely made me think about how much rubbish I throw away, and whether I can reuse stuff and cut down. Plastic shopping bags – now there’s a thought…

Being green is one thing, but sustainability isn’t just about that. It’s also about sustainable profits. We all heard the talk a while back that the boom-bust insurance cycle was a thing of the past. And that going to customers with huge price drops one year and huge price hikes the next wasn’t the right way to go about business.

That was the talk but this isn’t the way things are actually looking out there in the market. Again, this isn’t one for the soapbox – it’s for each company to work out it’s own approach. For us at R&SA this has been about focusing on core technical skills and underwriting disciplines – after all our fundamental expertise is in identifying the correct price for the risk, and to undercut this is unsustainable. Our people have worked hard at this which has shown through in our results. But we also know that it’s not just about the technical prices. It’s also about giving customers compelling “reasons to stay” - offering products with added value that make you stand out from the crowd.

What’s interesting is that increasingly some of this added value is actually about being green and sustainable. For example we’ve started offering energy management services to commercial property owners. And we’re just about to start working with the government to pilot the process for providing the Energy Performance Certificates that property owners will soon have to obtain. We’re thinking of more ideas like this for our customers.

As usual, so much to reflect on. This theme has a long way to run.

Bridget McIntyre is UK Chief Executive of Royal & SunAlliance