Tom Flack rounds up all that's new on

Though accounts of the refinancing and takeover antics of Towergate and Giles were the talk of the insurance town last week, it was the flood-ravaged results of the major insurers that dominated the online space.

Despite several of the leading UK players revealing huge declines in profits and ballooning combined operating ratios (COR) most, being part of global groups, emerged relatively unscathed in their appraisals.

This included Aviva which, as a result of the strong performance of its life business, ended up beating analysts’ expectations, said Reuters. Aviva’s share price soared by 6% on the back of the news.

The group’s general insurance results, however, revealed a slightly less rosy picture, with its COR rising to the infamous 100% threshold. Arguably a more significant figure was the decline in net premiums by 3% to £5.4bn.

An interesting aside, said Aviva in a statement, was that the group’s balance sheet had not been “materially affected” by the credit crunch, in part because the company switched £3.4bn of shareholder and pensions funds from equity to bonds in the autumn.

While the likes of AXA, Royal &SunAlliance and HBOS posted results broadly in line with market expectations, Lloyd’s insurers, buoyed by a benign catastrophe season outside the UK, celebrated.

Best of the bunch was Amlin, which grew its profits by 30% to $445m (£224m) – exceeding analysts’ expectations by almost the same amount – and Beazley, which posted profits of £138.5m, up 60% year-on-year.

Despite the intriguing details of insurer’s balance sheets, visitors to showed once again that their greatest interest is consolidation.

The news that Ecclesiastical had bought South Essex Insurance Brokers proved the most popular story of the week, slightly ahead of reports that Towergate was in discussions to sell a £850m stake of its business to private equity heavyweight Candover.

The accounts of the Towergate’s 143rd and 144th acquisitions also received their token high levels of traffic.

While the reshuffle at AXA-owned Venture Preference and Aon’s purchase of Gallagher Re were unsurprising presences on the most read list, the impending exit of Marsh trio Stephen Matanle, Julian Wellers, and Toby Foster proved that the embattled global broker also remains a hot topic.

Narrowly (and somewhat strangely) missing the list was the news of IAG-owned Hastings Direct’s rebrand, with viewers clearly responding well to cartoon mascot Harry.

Most Read

The most read stories this week on

1. Ecclesiastical buys Essex broker

Move for £28m premium South Essex Insurance Brokers broker follows distribution review.

2. Report: Towergate in sales talks

Cullum to sell quarter of business to Candover, newspaper claims.

3. Aon swoops for Gallagher Re

US broking giant acquires Gallagher Re business.

4. Bosses exit Marsh

Three senior staff go in broker restructure.

5. Venture Preference unveils new board

Stuart Reid unveils senior management board.

My Favourites – James Heath

The Serious Organised Crime Agency is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by, but operationally independent from, the Home Office – the site is a great source of information on the latest legislation and seminars.

Insurance Fraud Investigators Group – as secretary and website manager, I have a vested interest in this! With over 240 member organisations – all actively engaged in fraud detection and prevention – the site is a mine of information.

As an avid Liverpool FC fan, this is one of the better fan sites. A useful place to pick up snippets of info, particularly on the off-field goings on at the club. Hopefully the season will end in Moscow with another Champions League final.

Since its inception, I have worked closely with the IFB on combating the rise of organised insurance fraud scams. The site’s press centre demonstrates the success of the IFB in reducing fraud and publishes the latest statistics.

ACFE is one of the world’s largest counter-fraud training and education providers. The site has very useful guides on how fraud management is tackled in jurisdictions outside the UK and, closer to home, I use it to locate recognised counter-fraud professionals working outside the insurance sector.

James Heath is a partner and a director of counter-fraud strategy at Keoghs

Going Places

Perkins Slade

Perkins Slade has appointed Richard Doubleday as a main board director, with specific responsibility for developing its sports business.


Bankstone has appointed Simon Gould as IT manager.

Gould will be responsible for all IT and systems and telephony issues within the firm and also for developing joint initiatives with technology partner firms including insurance broking software houses.

Allianz Engineering

Allianz Engineering has appointed Karen Parsons as claims manager, based in the company’s Liphook head office.