COLUMN: Money trees and moon flights

Phil Bristow
Phil Bristow

So here we go on the merry-go-round again. We are only a few weeks into the New Year, but nothing much changes. It’s Brexit this, Trump that, will May last or Jeremy get the chance to grow his money trees?

Once again we have already had the NHS in crisis, corporate mismanagement (Carillion), a named storm (Eleanor), seen the idiocy of our criminal justice system (rapist and multiple sex offender to be released) and the BBC themselves falling foul of their politically-correct preaching.

And so it will, no doubt, go on.

This year is also likely to bring more of the same in the insurance world.

There will be the perennial moans about the price of car insurance, the media will highlight a few insurers not paying claims, as well as the ongoing sagas of whiplash, fraudulent claims and the cost of uninsured drivers.

Then there will be cyber, driverless cars, artificial intelligence and the Ogden discount rate reform (which effects personal injury pay-outs), all of which have been mentioned here before, and are likely to raised here again.

And of course, comparison sites will probably continue to produce the most annoying adverts. There will be newer developments with talk that Amazon will finally enter and ‘disrupt’ the personal insurance market and GDPR, the new data protection regulations, come into force in May with the threat of large fines that could dwarf the recent £400,000 fine incurred by Carphone Warehouse for their 2015 software breach which exposed the data of three million customers.

The insurance industry will have their own concerns about what a Brexit deal will look like.

The bigger brokers are worried about cross border restrictions with Lloyds in the throes of setting up a subsidiary in Brussels, although many insurers are already UK subsidiaries of European firms and vice versa.

Then there is the concern of a massive cyber-attack on an internet provider, although interestingly, surveys of businesses suggest that, other than cyber and the uncertainty with Brexit, one of the biggest concerns to business is reputational risks.

It’s not just inequality, sexual harassment, data breaches or tax evasion: both Apple and Tesco have recently come under fire for battery life and clubcard points and we are likely to see more companies making apologies (sometimes justified) and U-turns to appease a social media faction.

Inevitably flood claims will be in the news and unfortunately, most probably terrorism. Hopefully there won’t be another Grenfell, but there are bound to be natural disasters around the world, although insurers will hope 2018 is not a repeat of 2017, one of the worst in recent years, with various hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires costing them an estimated £100bn.

That said, paying claims is what insurance is there for and insurers usually show their worth when disaster and tragedy strike, although their role in innovation and technology should not be overlooked.

We may in 2018 see ‘Moon Express’ become the first private company to land on the moon – and such trips would not happen without insurance as a means of transferring risk.

AROUND THE INSURANCE WORLD

* Insurance has played its part in the collapse of Carillion, writes Phil Bristow. It seems one of the final nails in the coffin was when credit insurers, anticipating their downfall, stopped offering cover on Carillion to Carillion’s suppliers. Suppliers wouldn’t extend credit or supply goods to Carillion. The insurers expect big losses on cover they’d already provided.

* Global broker Marsh is battling a small company who want to set up an insurance product called Marshmallow. Marsh has objected and it has prompted the usual ‘big bullies small’ accusations.With Lemonade and Marmalade, doesn’t insurance have enough silly names?