For a second year, Britain's insurance and risk managers decamped to the seaside in June for their annual conference.
The Association of Insurance and Risk Managers chose the south-coast resort of Bournemouth as the venue for this year's assembly.
Delegates at least appeared happier on the issue of contract certainty, after last year's conference revealed that many risk managers complained policy wordings and documentation were frequently received long after inception.
The December 2006 deadlines for the London market include achieving contract certainty in at least 85 percent of cases, and this year AIRMIC published guidance to risk managers and insurance buyers to ensure this target is met.
The issue also surfaced in a members' forum, where panel member Daniel Glaser, managing director of U.K.-based AIG Europe, suggested that the insurance industry, where buyers demand customized products, suffered in comparison to the banking sector, whose products are more standardized.
"What can be standardized should be standardized, though," he said.
"There's no reason why the contract can't be discussed months before renewal, but risk managers need to be fully engaged in the process," he added.
David Martin, managing director of Global Corporate UK at Zurich, suggested that continuous cover, which could be cancelled subject to adequate notice, would be the way forward.
It would eliminate much of the time wasted "chasing paper." Carriers would respond to a demand for "evergreen policies" if given evidence of demand from their client base, he added.
But Glaser was less convinced. He pointed out that many market players have to buy capital on an annual basis.
"An evergreen policy would see some insurers able to deliver, others unable, so it could limit competition," he said.
While the concern of risk managers over contract certainty appeared to have waned this year, the recent spate of foreign takeover bids for major British companies was a hot topic.
In addition to BAA, owner of Heathrow and Gatwick airports and now under Spanish ownership, the venerable shipping line Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or P&O, fell to Dubai Ports World. Goldman Sachs was, as of mid-June, eyeing Associated British Ports.
The handover of sizeable chunks of the country's infrastructure to foreign owners has stirred unease as to whether the United Kingdom embraces the free market too enthusiastically when economic nationalism still holds sway in many of its neighbors.
It also potentially threatens AIRMIC's membership. Incoming chairman Geoff Taylor, risk manager for Nike's European operations, admitted foreign acquisitions have led to the loss of some member companies.
However, he stressed that others have themselves made takeovers, and AIRMIC has also benefited from the strength of the London market.
August 1, 2006
Copyright 2006© LRP Publications