Opinion Former Article

ABI: UK insurance industry leaders warn of tough challenges ahead


ABI Director General Otto Thoresen sets out challenges and opportunities for the UK’s world-leading insurance industry at the ABI Biennial conference

The insurance industry has a key role to play in helping UK consumers manage their financial commitments, but first it needs to improve its reputation, ABI Director General Otto Thoresen will say today at the industry’s most important gathering of the year.

His call comes on the day that ABI and KPMG publishes a survey of 57 insurance leaders, which highlights concerns about the new regulatory structure, the influence of the EU, and shows that reputation is seen as the industry’s biggest weakness.

ABI Director General, Otto Thoresen said:

“The reputation of UK financial services firms was undoubtedly harmed by the banking crisis. Insurers are not banks. Despite this, we have to tackle our reputation head-on and we have a good platform to do this from. Consumers recognise the importance of insurance, and every day insurers pay out £173 million in pensions and life insurance and £58 million in general insurance claims, such as on motor and household. Yet, despite the valuable role insurance plays in millions of people’s lives, the public perception of our industry is not high. We need to do something about this.”

The survey shows what executives think about the strengths of the industry and the impact of regulatory and economic pressures. It was conducted alongside the ABI’s quarterly consumer survey of over 2,500 UK adults.

The key findings show:
Industry leaders think that the industry’s greatest strength is helping customers at their time of need (top answer at 39%), closely followed by its contribution to the economy (21%)
The industry’s ability to help people when they need it is also the top answer for customers (18%)
But executives believe the industry’s greatest weakness is its reputation, cited as top by a third of people, ahead of how the industry interacts with customers
Two thirds of executives recognise that more needs to be done to show customers that it delivers a good service, in light of wider implications of the financial crisis

Looking to the future Otto Thoresen pointed out that:

“Unprecedented reforms in how we sell to our customers and how people save present real opportunities to raise our reputation and improve understanding of insurance. We need to grasp these opportunities with both hands, and make sure that we create an environment where our reputation reflects our value to society and the economy.”

On regulation, the Survey data shows that:
Almost half of industry leaders surveyed say that the new UK ‘Twin Peaks’ regulatory structure will do nothing to improve customer trust. Over half of consumers believe that they are responsible for the products they buy; only 4% think that this is the job of the regulator.
The growing impact of Europe and EU regulation is being felt by firms. 98% of industry leaders are somewhat or very worried about the impact of the EU on the UK market. Nearly a half are worried about ensuring a coherent regime, with a third very concerned that the EU does not understand the need for a cost benefit analysis when proposing new regulation. Consumers are also sceptical: only one in ten thinks EU intervention is appropriate; 57% think that the EU intervenes too much in Britain’s financial services.

It is also very clear that the industry needs a lot more convincing that Government is serious about making the UK the most competitive location in the G20 ahead of the Treasury’s consultation on controlled foreign companies:
Over half of industry executives are neutral on whether recent tax changes make it more likely they will stay in the UK
Over half of the executives surveyed did not put the UK in their top three locations to base their business, based on the tax and regulatory regime

Drew Fellowes, UK Head of Insurance at KPMG, the ABI’s Biennial Conference partner said:

“The insurance sector is undoubtedly facing a period of unparalleled change. It is likely that the industry we will see over the next three to five years will be structurally very different to what we have today. However, with this change comes a unique opportunity for the insurance sector to strengthen itself and become more competitive. The survey highlights the need for the industry to reinvigorate its relationship with customers and reinvent its reputation. From a strategic point of view, the big question remains around where future growth will come from – a feat not to be underestimated in these challenging times.

“Regulation has clearly risen to the forefront of the agenda, which comes at a time when many insurers face significant market pressures. As insurers battle through the waves of regulatory change, their challenge is to manage this in line with their strategic priorities and duties to shareholders and customers.”

- ENDS -

Notes for Editors

1. Enquiries to:
Liz Forster 020 7216 7444 (Mobile: 07717 578 586)

Malcolm Tarling 020 7216 7410 (Mobile: 07776 147 667)
Linsey White 020 7216 7415 (Mobile: 07939 126 553)
Monica Fiumara: 020 7694 5674 (Mobile: 07901 105 180)

2. The ABI survey of industry leaders is based on the private views of 57 individuals in positions of industry leadership, including CEOs, from some of the biggest insurers operating in the UK. They were not putting a company view, but their personal thoughts. Nearly half are from the larger insurance companies with gross written premium income of over £1 billion a year, with all types of insurer represented.

3. The ABI Quarterly Consumer Survey for quarter 2 2011 was carried out by YouGov among 2,613 adults between 31 May and 2 June 2011

4. The ABI is the voice of the UK’s insurance, investment and long-term savings industry. It has over 300 members, which together account for around 90% of premiums in the UK domestic market.

The ABI’s role is to:

- Be the voice of the UK insurance industry, leading debate and speaking up for insurers.

- Represent the UK insurance industry to government, regulators and policy makers in the UK, EU and internationally, driving effective public policy and regulation.

- Advocate high standards of customer service within the industry and provide useful information to the public about insurance.

- Promote the benefits of insurance to the government, regulators, policy makers and the public.


The UK insurance industry is the third largest in the world and the largest in Europe. It is a vital part of the UK economy, managing investments amounting to 24% of the UK’s net worth and contributing the fourth highest corporation tax of any sector. Employing over 275,000 people in the UK alone, the insurance industry is also one of this country’s major exporters, with a fifth of its net premium income coming from overseas business.

Insurance and businesses protect themselves against the everyday risks they face, enabling people to own their own homes, travel overseas, provide for a financially secure future and run businesses. Insurance underpins a healthy and prosperous society, enabling businesses and individuals to thrive, safe in the knowledge that problems can be handled and risks carefully managed. Every day, our members pay out £155 million in benefits to pensioners and long-term savers as well as £58 million in general insurance claims.

5. An ISDN line is available for broadcasts.

6. More news and information from the ABI is available on our web site, www.abi.org.uk.


Malcolm Tarling MCIPR
Senior Media Relations Officer
Corporate Affairs Directorate

T: 020 7216 7410
M: 07776 147667

Association of British Insurers
51 Gresham Street

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