Sub-prime remains as topical - and as troubling - as ever

Sub-prime remains as topical – and as troubling – as ever. Last week, the lion’s share of insurance coverage online was devoted to the news that the second largest bond insurer in the US, Ambac, could split in order to retain its credit rating.

This follows the previous week’s revelation that AIG had been instructed to amend its sub-prime write-down from $1bn to $5bn; news picked up on by market observers in their droves, with the story hitting third place on the most read list.

In other news, Eliot Spitzer has been linked with the insurance sector for reasons other than contingent commissions, after the New York Governor told a congressional hearing that unless bond insurers raised enough capital to guard against future losses, the state might have to intervene by stripping them of their municipal business.

Marsh still figured prominently in the news. The discovery that it had let go of three of its senior staff, including head of distribution Toby Foster and head of global placement (and chair of the Market Reform Group) Stephen Matanle, received ample online coverage, both within and outside the trade press.

Most commentators, however, seemed to have missed the point that new global chief Daniel Glaser may have begun to make his mark on the business – and perhaps even make its promise of achieving an operating margin of 20% in the UK a distinct possibility.

Looking back as well as forward, the release of Zurich’s 2007 results was met with muted interest by online observers. While the group revealed buoyant figures the previous week, the Swiss giant’s UK business also posted strong figures, despite a tumultuous hit from the floods.

The next insurer to throw its hat into the ring was Allianz, which revealed its annual net income grew by 13.5% in 2007 to $8bn, driven by 21% growth in its health and life division. It will be interesting to see how its UK general insurance results fit into the picture.

On Towergate’s latest – and arguably most significant – legal battle yet proved the most sought after story by far. The appointment of Barbara Bradshaw as chief executive of the IIB drew a wide readership, while AXA chief Peter Hubbard’s admission that the insurer had failed to meet the service requirements of its brokers proved one of the most popular features in the history of the site.

In addition, residual traffic from the ESR fraud-scandal proved particularly strong. After being the most popular online story the previous week, the news that the Lloyd’s broker had gone into administration attracted a further 15% of viewers last week, making it the fourth most popular story of the year.

Most Read

The most read stories this week on

1. Towergate accuses Chaucer of poaching staff

Ten former employees accused of breaking the terms of their restrictive covenants

2. IIB names Barbara Bradshaw as chief executive

Bradshaw takes the helm following Andrew Paddick’s death last month

3. AIG reveals sub-prime hit

$14bn wiped off insurer’s market value

4. Zurich’s UK profits fall to £91m

Insurer’s combined operating ratio rises to 105% in wake of floods

5. We can work it out

AXA chief Peter Hubbard responds to criticism of service levels for brokers

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Going Places

Highway Insurance

Highway Insurance has appointed Sandra Inglis as regional account manager to cover Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north east of England. She joins from Nelson Jordan & Co.

Adjusting Solutions

Sandy Taylor has joined Adjusting Solutions as a consultant.

He is a dual qualified chartered loss adjuster and risk manager with over 20 years’ adjusting experience.


Insurance Compliance Services (ICS) has appointed Andy Crane as its 14th consultant. He will cover London and the South East.

He joins from Royal & SunAlliance.

MI Adjusting

Christopher Ingham has been appointed as supervising adjuster at MI Adjusting. He will specialise in construction and casualty claims.

Home & Legacy

Home & Legacy has appointed David Cleverley as motor products manager.

Cleverley has more than 20 years’ experience in the insurance industry.

Berrymans Lace Mawer

Berrymans Lace Mawer has appointed Stuart Hardy to its catastrophic injury division.

He joins from Halliwell.


SmithGreenfield has appointed Jacqueline Raina as an account handler to join the private client division.

Raina previously worked for A-Plan and Towergate.