Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Brokers & Cycle Management

My earlier post (here) talked about risk managers reacting to the furious soft market (isn't there a term for an modifying adjective that contradicts the object and is my grandmother rolling over in her grave to get her ruler to rap my knuckles?).

See images of the soft market above - the first is rates for Directors & Offices (D&O) cover showing 4 years of declining premiums. The second is the rate of change for every quarter in the past 4 years - note that the 11% decline in Q4 2007 is the 2nd biggest in these 4 years - meaning the soft market is showing no signs of abating.
I have posted many times now about underwriters managing the cycle through "underwriting discipline" (see here and here and here).

In looking at developments in the broker market, Jardine Lloyd Thompson's (JLT) results today (here) showed top-line and bottom-line growth. This is noteworthy because most brokers fees are a percentage of premium and as the soft market erodes premium, the broker looks for other ways to grow. JLT did a lot of right-sizing to achieve these profits.

What are brokers doing?

The COO of a London market broker told me he'd taken out all of the cost he could and growth would need to come from new revenues. His Board was looking at consulting services to provide clients wth even greater advice in enterprise risk management.

Going back to JLT, our friends at the Insurance Insider wrote (here) that they felt JLT and competitor Thompson Heath and Bond (THB) were looking for new revenue by launching underwriting divisions. See press releases for JLT here and THB here.
It's going to be very interesting to follow these developing stories - will Thistle Underwriters (JLT) and Unicorn Underwriting (THB) be soft-market panaceas or more disruptive innovations for the industry. Advisen Front Page News will follow this story - subscribe here.

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