Brokers are worried about the insurer's unexplained strategy, says Michelle Hannen
It's little wonder brokers are confused about Zurich's UK strategy. The spat with Folgate aside, Zurich has been awfully quiet of late. In fact, the last clear strategic shout heard from the UK business was nine months ago, from the then UK head of personal lines, Ian Owen. He proclaimed his ambition for Zurich to overtake Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) as Britain's third largest personal lines insurer.
But Owen parted ways with the insurer in January this year, followed by head of motor Dave Swann in April. Suddenly the bold personal lines strategy looked shaky.
On the commercial side, the once outspoken Geoff Riddell, who previously championed the cause for reform in the employers' liability market on behalf of the entire industry, lost his voice after being appointed chief executive of Zurich's UK general insurance business in November 2002.
He must have been making the right noises internally however; in April this year he was promoted to chief executive of Zurich's global corporate business.
The new man in the UK hot seat is the former chief executive of Eagle Star in Ireland, Ian Stuart, who was appointed chief executive of the UK general insurance business in May.
Two months in, however, and it seems no one outside of Zurich has heard much from Stuart; indeed many brokers can't even name him.
The fact that Zurich has cancelled a commercial agency worth £18m in gross written premium with Folgate without so much as a meeting between the heads of both companies is telling.
The stance that Zurich has taken over both Hill House Hammond and Folgate to fight to retain its clients is bold.
But the issue of who owns the client is an extremely sensitive one for brokers and Zurich's UK strategy remains unexplained, leaving the company dangerously exposed to a backlash.
Nine months is a long time to wait for a clear picture to emerge - let's hope something great is being born.