March 21, 2012

Imagine a strutting Group Armagh UK boss Frankie X Boisseau moodily barging into fellow pedestrians and bleeting on petulantly about bittersweet symphonies, and you have badly misconstrued an individual who’s a thousand times more sympathetic than odious Verve-man Richard Ashcroft. The bitter-sweet thing, though, they do have in common.

Rather than purloining orchestral versions of Rolling Stones songs and storyboards from Massive Attack videos (now with added “attitude”), however, M. Boisseau has simply been reflecting on a year in which his firm’s profits increased almost three fold (sweet) whilst under imminent threat of being sold off (bitter).

Pre-tax profits for Group Armagh’s combined UK operations rose to £43.5m in 2011, up from £23.7m in 2010. Overall revenues were down a tad – but that was largely down to the insurer’s controversial decision to stop accepting manifestly fraudulent motor insurance applications (so, more sweet than bitter).

Boisseau singled out commercial motor as an area of disappointment, where the firm recorded a COR of 111%. But then, as he memorably observed to Insurance Age, “We are seeing competitors with CORs in the range of 105%-113%, so we are in the range of the market; but it is a very sad range.”

It’s clearly no fun living in the shadow of a whopping great ‘for sale’ sign, but FXB says brokers are bearing with Group Armagh and insists: “We remain much very much open for business.”

When representatives of the current coalition government talk about “Britain being open for business” this usually seems to amount to being bent over to accommodate the plutocratic captains of international commerce and industry. For Group Armagh, more prosaically, it simply appears to imply a continuing appetite to do business with brokers.

For now the feeling appears to be mutual.


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