Tom Flack looks at the week on the web
While consolidation’s grip on the UK market tightened this week, two stories further afield held sway in the online insurance space.
The news that Warren Buffett had ended Bill Gates’ 13-year reign as the richest man in the world hit the virtual front page of financial and consumer publications alike. Buffett’s fortune has grown, Forbes said, by $10bn to $62bn in the past year, adding weight to theories that he alone has the power to stave off a global recession.
Having told the Financial Times earlier in the week that recession in the US was – according to any common sense definition – already underway, the news of Buffett’s increased wealth proved particularly topical.
On a related note, leading bond insurer Ambac retained its prominent place online, its stock market value plummeting by almost a fifth last Wednesday after investors were left unimpressed with its $1.5bn recapitalisation plan.
The rating agencies – also in the firing line courtesy of a Parliamentary select committee which accused them of conflicts of interest and flaws in their methods – stoked the Ambac fire, with Standard & Poor’s stating its outlook for the company would remain negative in light of further potential deterioration in the mortgage market. Fitch, having cut the insurer’s rating to AA went further, explaining Ambac would only regain its former status when its sub-prime risk was effectively contained.
Last week’s results stream thinned to a trickle, but still provided ample interest with Catlin becoming the latest Lloyd’s insurer to file record results, while JLT exceeded analyst’s expectations as it announced pre-tax profits of £95m and hiked its margin by two points. Commentators also picked up on comments made the previous week by Hiscox chiefs Robert Hiscox and Bronek Masojada after they slammed Lloyd’s for not overseeing a greater reduction in capacity in 2007.
Despite the global distractions, and concerns over the availability of capital, readers of insurancetimes.co.uk remained focused on the implications of private equity’s heightened involvement in the UK general insurance sector. Giles’s plan to build a £1bn broker featured in three of the five most popular stories of the week, while Towergate, in the midst of its own refinancing, declared victory in its poaching dispute with Chaucer. The story proved of huge interest to readers, even if it is not the last we are to likely hear of such practices.
Unsurprisingly, the news that AXA was poised to make its biggest acquisition to date after its bid for broker giant SBJ, topped the list. The story proved the second most popular online story of the year – and third on the all-time list.
The most read stories this week on insurancetimes.co.uk:
1. AXA swoops for SBJ
Insurer in offer for 100% share capital of group.
2. Giles sets out audacious plan to buy Oval and Jelf
Private equity investment enables Giles to outline target to grow the firm to £1bn GWP.
3. Giles handed £500m war chest
Charterhouse Capital Partners buys broker.
4. Towergate settles poaching dispute with Chaucer
Cullum proclaims integrity of the broker/ insurer relationship has been restored.
5. Aviva to sell stake in Giles as private equity firm swoops
Scottish broker expected to shelve flotation plans as deal with new backer builds war chest.
My Favourites David Quick
This is an excellent information site on treating customers fairly, especially for smaller brokers, which most of our members are.
Instant access for what’s happening in the markets.
This is Google’s technology playground. you can see all the latest ideas from Google, plus there is a huge amount of information on web searches. Google is constantly adding new tools such as maps, trip planning, videos, document and spreadsheet sharing. A must for the technophile.
On this site they have the ‘wayback’ machine, which has 85 billion web pages stored. You can look for any website and see what the site looked like in the past. Fascinating to see how companies’ websites have evolved.
The super hoops are now backed by some of the richest men in the world. Watch out Chelsea and Manchester United!
David Quick is managing director of CETA insurance network
Mastek has announced the appointment of Steve Williams as business development director.
Williams was previously UK country manager and head of strategic sales EMEA at Bravura Solutions.
Marshall Wooldridge has appointed Ray Geary as operations manager. Geary has over 25 years’ senior management experience.
Greenwoods has appointed James Roden as partner and Sally Sommerville as assistant solicitor.
Personal injury specialist Doug Maclure joins from Beachcroft and fraud specialists Elaine Ibbotson and Karen Coss join from Beachcroft and Weightmans respectively.
SmithGreenfield Services has appointed Jacqueline Raina as an account handler to join the private client division.
Raina has high net worth and household experience from her last two positions at A-Plan and Towergate.