£8.9bn rescue of troubled parent group will not affect ‘fantastic’ business here.

Barry Smith, chief executive of Fortis UK, is adamant that the turmoil surrounding the insurer’s troubled parent company will not affect business at home.

Fortis UK acted in a “standalone” capacity and was in line for a “lot of growth”, he said.

“We have a fantastic business in the UK. We have doubled the size of the company in recent years, tripled profits and we are incredibly well capitalised.”

Fortis Group had to be bailed out in September with €11.2bn (£8.9bn) from the governments of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The banking giant ran into difficulties after acquiring a €24bn (£19bn) stake in ABN Amro just as the credit crunch struck, slashing the value of the group’s assets.

Smith admitted that Fortis had experienced “a lot of turmoil” at group level, but he added: “You can expect us to develop more products and to continue with a wider delivery to the UK market.”

Speaking at an industry conference in London last Thursday, Smith outlined the key issues facing general insurers during the economic downturn and the next decade.

They should not underestimate the value of a sound risk management structure, helped by avoidance technology, as the impact of climate change took effect, he said.

He predicted companies with capital would take the advantage to snap up the assets of other firms.

Insurers had to identify where they had ability and where they should compete.

Smith also said the industry would need to identify how customers were reacting to the economic downturn and the likely cut in their disposable income.

“We have to get our minds around where do we see our customers, where do we see their needs and where do we see solutions for those needs,” he said.

“We have to get centrality for business purposes and, out of that, the credentials to deliver to customers.”