Archive for Future Risks

A Brief History of Insurance: Part 8 Lloyds and World Insurance

A Brief History of Insurance:

Part Eight: The emergence of Lloyd’s as the worlds major insurance organisation:

In the previous article in this series we learnt about the humble beginnings of Lloyd’s as a relatively small coffee shop on Tower street. Whether it was an incredible piece of foresight or simple luck Lloyd developed a very specific clientèle of sailors, ship owners and merchants for boat insurance and marine cargo insurance risks.

Lloyds wasn’t the only coffee shop to do insurance business but it set the standards. In 1748 nearly one hundred houses including the famous coffef houses of Jonathan’s, Garraways and others were destroyed by a fire that ravaged Cornhill and in which scores of people perished and damage to the exent of £200,000 (nearly 200million in todays money) was caused. This event and another in the Cornhill when it was again destroyed by fire in 1765, left Lloyds in a prominent trading position.

It is evident however, that Lloyd cultivated this customer base by providing reliable and regular updates on the shipping news to those that visited his coffee house and soon Lloyd’s had established itself as a focal point within the very heart of the Shipping industry.

It was therefore inevitable that the coffee shop also quickly became a second home to a number of early insurers seeking to business with the Lloyd’s clientèle. Similarly it soon became accepted that if you were a merchant seeking insurance, then Lloyd’s was always a recommended first port of call. In fact within just three years Lloyd’s had grown to a level of importance and popularity that a new location was required and Lloyd moved his coffee shop to Lombard St – where it would remain for the next 83, years long after Lloyd himself had passed away.

As Britain established itself as a leading economic power through the exploitation of the slave trade, the shipping industry was at the heart of this economic boom. As slave trading was a high risk trade (1053 slave vessels are recorded as having been lost between 1689 and 1807) the insurers of Lloyd’s also found themselves in high demand.

Lloyd himself died in 1713 however his legacy remained strong.

Lloyds Fire at the Royal Exchange

In 1774 when the participating members of the insurance arrangement formed a committee and moved to the Royal Exchange in London, they became The Society of Lloyd’s. The Society’s objectives included the promotion of its members’ interests and the collection and dissemination of information amongst members helping them to further dominate the marine insurance industry which indeed they had created.

The first Lloyd’s act was passed in parliament in 1871 and it was this act that gave the Society a firm footing both  commercially and legally and it continued to remain at the heart of the insurance industry, growing in tandem with the industry to eventually become one of the most powerful and well respected organisations in the world today.

In fact in many ways very little of Lloyd’s of London then changed for almost a century and this is even true of their motor insurance risks department. The membership of the society, which was made up in the main of market participants, became the market specialists. Lloyd’s continued to grow, and it’s members continued to flourish, mostly due to the force of economics. Insurance moved from being desirable to essential across just a few centuries. If you were in shipping you needed marine insurance. If you needed marine insurance you got it from Lloyd’s. It was as simple as that.

marine insurance

However, eventually the bubble had to burst. Just under a hundred years after the first Lloyd’s Act had been passed, the membership of Lloyd’s was realised to be too small for the risks that it was underwriting. The Cromer report commissioned in 1968 advocated opening membership options to both non-market participants and crucially to non-British subjects for the first time.

The insurance industry had become a global industry and Lloyd’s had to adapt to survive. In the next article in this series we shall explore the rise of insurance in the US and how they too had to adapt to the globalisation of the industry within the twentieth century.

Could Flooding Become A Fundamental Risk in The UK?

For those UK underwriters and loss adjusters watching the scenes of devastation caused by hurricane Irene and particularly flooding in states like Vermont, they will be glad that their insurance company does not have to pick up the bill.

They needn’t have worried though because in the United States Flood Risk is considered fundamental and cannot be covevered under a normal home insurance policy as such…as yet!

In fact all home insurance flood risks are the responsibility of each State to provide under a national scheme. In the United States, uniquely in the developed world, insuring houses against flood damage is the sole province of the federal government.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), was created in 1968 by Congress and is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is virtually the only place to get protection against the ever increasing disasters of flood and storm surge.

From an insurance point of view the program is the same as any other private-sector insurance program.

You pay the government a certain amount and when a flood happens, receive coverage for repairs and losses.

As of June 30, the program had nearly 5.6 million policies in force with a total insured value of $1.246 trillion. But from a fiscal standpoint FEMA does not manage the NFIP like a traditional insurer.

Most insurers use a measure of solvency that looks at their capital and reserves and their ability to pay claims. In particular, regulators require insurance companies to keep a statutory reserve of liquid assets to cover potential future losses. FEMA, on the other hand, has said it manages the NFIP to generate enough premiums to cover expenses and losses for an average loss year, rather than keeping capital for the long term.

In other words it does not keep enough reserves! And guess what? It’s run out of money!

Apparantely former agency officials admit it charges rates that dramatically underprice the risks faced. That is all well and good in a normal year and when business is good, but when a worse-than-average loss year happens, the consequences are disastrous.

Folowing the disatrous hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the NFIP was more or less insolvent, without the capacity to pay the huge volume of claims those hurricanes created. Congress reacted by increasing the NFIP’s borrowing ability from the U.S. Treasury more than 13-fold, to a level of nearly $21 billion. That debt burden is, by all accounts, unsustainable.

While Irene was no Katrina, it comes on top of serious Midwestern flooding that the program has already had to deal with this year. Some people believe NFIP will stretch its debt boundaries and may well end up needing more assistance. “It may be a little bit too soon to tell but it’s certainly not going to be a very good year for the NFIP and we’ve not finished the year yet,” said Robert Hartwig, an economist and the president of the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Hartwig said a private insurance market for flood coverage is absolutely possible, with plenty of insurers and reinsurers willing to get into the business – but only if the NFIP raises its rates and if insurers get assurances from state regulators that they will be able to do the same.

Insurance Blog wonders if given all the recent flood claims in the UK due to climate change and the pressure to build houses on floodplains, whether Flood Insurance will at some point become a fundamental risk in the UK for some homes?

The UK Government would be well advised to consult with construction companies, environmental scientists, climatologists, pressure groups and Insurance companies before we reach the crisis about to hit the US Treasury.

The solution is simple – do not solve the UK housing problem by building on floodplains or areas of geographical risk.

FSA To Clampdown On Insurance Selling On The Internet In The UK

The FSA may well have the axe hanging over it’s head, be over-populated by a bunch of pen pushers and bureaucrats, culpable for the restriction in insurance products and markets available and be responsible for failing to avert the recession caused by the banks, but…….

Insurance Blog will be the first to admit that the FSA in it’s swansong is at least trying to do the right thing, with some notable recent successes in prosecutions and forcing the banks to heel over the mis-selling of payment protection insurance.

Those small insurance brokers, insurance agents, consultants and intermediaries whose rising FSA authorisation costs and annual fees have helped fund the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to pay for the banks mis-selling crimes would be the first to disagree, however their contempt for the organisation might be tempered some if they were aware of the FSA’s latest moves against their largest competitors……

The Insurance price comparison websites and aggregators selling general insurance products on the Internet.

If the FSA’s latest proposals for the regulated Selling of Insurance on the Internet are enforced, this could be a good thing for all small insurance intermediaries out there, who collectively currently receive less than 5% of the total internet traffic searching for Insurance.

First in the line of fire has been the Insurance price comparison websites, particularly those that compare car insurance and home insurance, and recommend insurance products to the public. In it’s investigation the FSA found serious breaches of it’s rules on the regulation of giving advice and selling of insurance. It subsequently wrote to 19 firms that it considers are breaking these rules in regards to advice and arranging contracts of insurance.

The letter advised the 19 Price Comparison websites:

· review your regulated activities and ensure you are appropriately authorised or otherwise exempt;

· ensure that you only enter into contracts with firms holding the appropriate authorisation and permissions to conduct that regulated activity (or who are exempt);

· withdraw your assistance from third parties if they are in breach of the general prohibition;

· review your disclosure documentation, sales procedures and your terms and conditions and make sure that these are compliant with all relevant regulatory requirements including our Guidance consultation Principles, ICOBS and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. In particular, you should ensure they comply with  requirements on: customer eligibility, status disclosure, advice suitability, providing a proper statement of demands and needs, and that you do not seek in your terms and conditions to exclude liability for the regulated activities you are undertaking; and
establish, implement and maintain adequate policies and procedures to ensure your firm complies with all relevant obligations under the regulatory system and for countering the risk of furthering financial crime, in particular breaches of the general prohibition and restrictions on financial promotion.

A price comparison firm may be arranging contracts of insurance where its activities involve any of the following:

· the firm provides links to product companies or intermediaries for the purpose of enabling the customer to purchase a chosen insurance product;

· the firm requires a pre-purchasing questionnaire to be completed in order to filter sales (i.e. where the intermediary asks a series of questions and then suggests several specific products.

Under these guidelines it would appear that any website that collects information with the view to arranging insurance or even provides a link, is breaking the FSA rules if not authorised to do so….

The FSA found the folowing types of Insurance websites in breach where they are not FSA regulated:

· the firm provides a comparison of the terms of different policies as opposed to a passive display of the features of different policies;

· the firm runs a website which is funded by one or more insurance or mortgage providers (i.e. it is not ‘independent’); and/or
· the firm offers a special discount on the product to its website users.

. Even where no financial benefit is derived, the firm may still be making arrangements if it brands the comparison service with its own name, endorses the service or otherwise encourages users to respond to it, negotiates special rates for users, or holds out the service as something arranged for the benefit of users.

Advising on insurance
The FSA now considers any type of recommendation as giving advice. In addition where the effect of the firm’s arrangements constitutes a recommendation to purchase a specific product or products, that recommendation is likely to involve the firm giving regulated advice.

Some indicators of where a website or price comparison website may contain advice which is regulated by law include:

· where the name or logo of only one insurance product is displayed on the website in a manner that suggests that the particular product is to be preferred over other products (for example, a particular logo might appear on a webpage containing generic advice on the merits of incapacity insurance contracts);

· where a particular insurance product is recommended as the ‘pick of the best’ product out of a number of other products in its category;

· where a particular insurance product is star-rated by a website, for example, the product is awarded five out of five stars, by contrast to a similar product which is awarded two out of five stars;

· where a scripted questionnaire gives a recommendation or opinion which influences the choice of insurance product and then goes on to identify a particular insurance or regulated mortgage product to which the advice relates;

· where the questioning process has resulted in the identification of one or more particular contracts of insurance based on a non-objective assessment of the product features;

· where the website generally makes any value judgement as to the merits of one or more insurance products or regulated mortgage contracts, by way of scripted questioning or otherwise;

· where generic best buy tables are used and are not populated from specific consumer information this might be advice depending on the consumer’s experience of it. So, for example, a website containing solely generic ‘best buy’ tables explaining the merits of futures as opposed to options would not be advice, but if those tables guide the consumer to a particular insurance product based on the consumer’s personal requirements, this is likely to be regulated advice;

· where generic statements on a website are not dependent on consumer information being populated; this could be regulated advice where they are displayed in such a way that the website operator is making value judgements as to the merits of buying, selling, etc. For example, ‘The products of the month are XYZ, ABC and DEF investments because they offer the best returns’.

Clearly if implemented to the full the following types of insurance marketing would be illegal on the Internet in the UK for all websites that are not authorised and regulated and will have huge ramifications for the way insurance is distributed online in the future:

· Linking of any sort to Insurance Provider or Insurance Comparison website (Text links and Banner ads)
· Distributing Articles and Media that link to or promote insurance products (Article Directories, Video Directories, Social Media, Blogs)
· Affiliate Marketing and Vertical Marketing by non regulated affiliates
· Review Websites
· White Labelled Websites
· Marketing Websites

Insurance Blog thinks that this is a good thing, if it is properly policed as it will remove a lot of the chaff from the Internet, much eminating from unqualified webmasters both inside and outside of the UK. We are of course authorised and regulated under our Insurance Publishing Group owners Insuretec Ltd. FSA no. 422934 and would love to see our FSA fees used in this way! And as a word of advice, when filling out an insurance proposal form online, no matter it’s detail, always check that the website states its FSA number and regulatory status, which can also be found at the FSA’s website.

UK Unemployment hits record heights

The UK Government have just released the latest economic indicators from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and it makes grim reading. doom and gloom awaits us all if the trends continue……

If you haven’t taken out unemployment insurance yet, there may still be a little time, although given latest figures you will have to move as fast as the postman with the redundancy notices, as UK Unemployment hit record heights.

Here’s the facts of the state of Britains Economy

These are graphs showing the working age employment rate and the unemployment rate

The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the three months to November 2010 was 70.4 per cent, down 0.3 on the quarter.

The number of people in employment aged 16 and over fell by 69,000 on the quarter to reach 29.09 million.

The last time there were larger quarterly falls in the employment level and rate was in the three months to August 2009.

The number of people working full-time fell by 37,000 on the quarter to reach 21.16 million and the number of people working part-time fell by 32,000 to reach 7.93 million.

Part Time Working at all time high!

The number of employees and self-employed people who were working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 26,000 on the quarter to reach 1.16 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

The unemployment rate for the three months to November 2010 was 7.9 per cent, up 0.2 on the quarter.

The total number of unemployed people increased by 49,000 over the quarter to reach 2.50 million.

Male unemployment increased by 43,000 on the quarter to reach 1.48 million and female unemployment increased by 6,000 on the quarter to reach 1.02 million.

Youth Unemployment at record levels!

The unemployment rate for those aged from 16 to 24 increased by 1.0 on the quarter to reach 20.3 per cent, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

The number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds increased by 32,000 on the quarter to reach 951,000, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.

Redundancies on steady increase.
There were 157,000 redundancies in the three months to November 2010, up 14,000 on the quarter.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (the claimant count) fell by 4,100 between November and December 2010 to reach 1.46 million, although the number of people claiming for up to six months increased by 7,200 to reach 960,300.

The total number of male claimants fell by 6,600 on the month to reach 1.02 million but the number of female claimants increased by 2,500 to reach 439,300.

The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the three months to November 2010 was 23.4 per cent, up 0.2 on the quarter.

The number of economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64 increased by 89,000 over the quarter to reach 9.37 million.

Early Retirement at Record levels !

The number of people who were economically inactive because they had taken retirement before reaching the age of sixty-five increased by 39,000 on the quarter to reach 1.56 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1993.

Wages Stay the Same!
The earnings annual growth rate for total pay (including bonuses) was 2.1 per cent for the three months to November 2010, unchanged from the three months to October.

The earnings annual growth rate for regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 2.3 per cent for the three months to November 2010, unchanged from the three months to October.

The Oulook.

Very Bleak!  The current situation is comparable to the early Thatcher years and the axe has yet to fall on 600,000 public sector workers. The knock on effects to the high street of this contraction in money flow will damage small to medium sized businesses as demand inevitably drops. Further unemployment within the already contracted private sector is inevitable as orders dry up and the unemployment queues will increase.

All sectors of the economy will suffer from this so called ‘double dip recession’ particularly high end products and high street businesses will suffer. Insurance will not have an easy time either! Already we are seeing once profitable sectors like shop insurance virtually disappear as a viable large market as the number of shops rapidly decreases. When was the last time you saw a high street travel agents or hardware store? The pattern is being repeated across all sectors of the UK Commercial Insurance market.

Coupled with this we are under immense inflationary pressures from energy prices and global food markets which inevitable, although foolishly, will lead to the Bank of England be foreced to politically raise Interest rates. After all, there are no more weapons in the economic arsenal.

Darwinian ConDemNation.

The future is blue and orange and civil commotion – If you are not a merchant banker, are you fit enough to survive?

Lloyds prepares for Solar Meltdown!

“Ground Control to Major Tom!”

“Check your policy wording and put your spacesuit on!”

Insurance Business have finally moved into the 21st Century with some truly space age of aquarius exposures to risk to deal with over the next year, according to a new report from Lloyds of London.

These new age risks include Space weather, cyber risk and critical infrastructure attacks that are predicted to cause big problems for consumers, businesses and their insurance companies in 2011.

The Lloyd’s 360 Risk Insight report states that ‘The phenomenon of space weather is one of the most difficult to quantify and yet potentially serious sources of loss and disruption for business.’

“Space weather and its impact on Earth: Implications for business”, says that businesses should be looking at ways to assess and mitigate space weather risks this year because the 11-year solar cycle is expected to peak in 2012/13.”

Turbulent space weather created by solar phenomena such as coronal mass ejections, solar flares, solar wind, solar radiation and magnetic storms could have wide ranging impacts around the globe in climatic responses, many scientists believe.

These phenomena are also predicted to affect aircraft communications, air traffic control and navigational systems which could malfunction or might stop working, satellite and GPS systems could also malfunction, and surprisingly. power grids could collapse.

Scientists know a lot about the possible causes and effects of solar weather from previous cycles. Established infrastructure that we take for granted, such as rail networks, telephone systems, pipelines and electric power grids have all been seriously disrupted by space weather in the past.

But the economic fall-out that could result from the increasingly active solar season is far less certain. That’s because our dependency on wi-fi and internet technology is so much greater than before.

“There is growing concern that the coming solar maximum will expose problems in the many wireless systems that have grown in popularity during the quiet solar conditions that have prevailed over recent years,” the Lloyd’s report warns.

Insurance Blog should have a lot to write about then over the coming year if these concerns are realised.

And then it’s 2012!

Don’t worry about the risks to the Olympic games! The Mayan Calendar stops here……….

And the earth is positioned in alignment with the centre of of the Universe!