Tom Flack rounds up all that's new on

No prizes for guessing which story topped the insurance list this week.

On Friday, the unveiling of Norwich Union’s third major redundancy programme in four years, amounting to over 8,000 jobs in that span, was afforded the front page of every online financial outlet in the land.

The surprise was lessened by the news two days before that Zurich – again the first to be the bearer of bad news after revealing its inflated 2007 combined operating ratio of 106% in February – had implemented plans to slash its expense base by a tenth, and work force by up to a fifth.

As the pressures of the economic downturn and the soft market continue to take their toll on insurer margins, it seems highly unlikely that these will prove isolated incidents. Three in four voters polled on believed other large insurers would follow suit

Meanwhile, once in a decade events unfolded across the Atlantic. Ending a seven and a half year wait for a major acquisition, Willis and its chairman, Joe Plumeri made their mark in typically vibrant fashion by landing the ninth largest broker on the planet, Holb Rogal & Hobbs.

“I couldn’t find a better fit if I wrote a script,” the Willis chief told analysts.

The subsequent $300m fall in the company’s market cap, and Moody’s questioning of the broker’s short-term financial strength added further twists to the tale.

Then on Thursday, Gregory Case, chief of rival Aon –just one of two brokers larger than Willis – declared the company would be making a few more moves of its own. The company spent a quarter of a billion dollars on 21 acquisitions last year.

“There’s not a target out there that we couldn’t afford to buy,” Gregory Besio, head of Aon’s corporate strategy, added on Friday. Even Marsh?

RBS successfully completed its £12.3bn rights issue, standing in stark contrast to the prospect of rival Scottish bank HBOS, whose stock dipped below its discounted share price offer on Wednesday.

On the same day, RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin insisted that the company would still sell its insurance division, but for every penny he thought it was worth. That is, at least £6bn.

A figure that James Schiro, Zurich’s chief, later said he was capable of paying.

Two more stories caught the eye. The development of Broker Network’s parliamentary lobby; and the impressive positioning of RSA?chief Bridget McIntyre’s latest blog – 11th place on the most read list.


The most read stories this week on

1. Zurich to lay off hundreds of UK staff

Up to 900 jobs could be lost as part of 10% cost cutting exercise.

2. NU to slash up to 1,800 jobs by 2010

A tenth of UK workforce to go in operational overhaul.

3. Willis acquires broking giant HRH

Deal valued at over $2bn.

4. Broker Network takes commission disclosure fight to parliament

Letter from Grant Ellis to 2,500 brokers calls for political spotlight to be trained on FSA.

5. Towergate to scale back acquisitions as growth fails to hit targets

Chief executive says company will not bow to insurer demands for lower commissions, as partial 2007 results are revealed.


by Debra Williams

For keeping up to date with current events. I also use it Cbeebies section to keep my daughter entertained.

I am a closet geek (as you would expect having run a successful internet company) and stumbled across this American site, which tracks technology and how it is affecting the world around us: from advertising to climate change.

I am a great rugby fan, and like to check out my local team.

I recently purchased an iPhone, so I am now addicted to this site. I also like to download my favourite classical music from iTunes.

My number one for saving money. I use it as a consumer, and have saved money on my car and home insurance as well as saving £300 per annum on my gas and electricity bills.

I have become dependent on it to find what I need.

Debra Williams is former managing director of She joins Highway in October.



Brit Insurance has appointed Jennifer Martin as divisional underwriting director of its international legal and professional risks division .

Janet Henderson also joins as divisional underwriting director of its North American liability division.

GHL Insurance

GHL Insurance Services has appointed Kate Quick to its business development, marketing and agency team.


Mark Roberts has been appointed by Chubb as

risk management and multinational underwriting manager for Europe.

Sarah Liddell has also joined Chubb Insurance as manager of the London casualty team.


Allianz has appointed Judy King as regional development manager for the Midlands.

She has over 20 years’ experience in the insurance market, most recently with Aon where she held a senior management role in the UK marine division.


Rushton International, insurance valuation specialist, has appointed Peter Elliott as marketing director.

Rebecca Fuller has also joined Rushton as marketing executive.


Christopher Barry has joined Ropner Insurance’s non-marine team.

He joins from FirstCity Partnership where he was associate partner.