April 9, 2014

Tell me again, general insurance, is that something to do with meerkats or annuities or something?

According to shock new survey findings, unleashed this week upon an only partially suspecting world by law firm Emerson Leighton Paisner, that’s about the level of understanding with which insurance people credit regulators FCA and BRA.

Whilst regulators appear to have some rough idea what banks and investment managers do, they are widely believed to have no more than a ‘relatively poor understanding of the insurance industry’, in consequence of which they are seen as apt to treat its denizens with unwarranted and disproportionate severity.

ELP report that companies in the insurance industry believe the so-called Twin Peak Two need to have a good long think about “the longer-term impact of their actions on consumers before deciding on costly interventions” (with the apparent threat that any cost imposed on insurance firms will simply be passed on to customers).

Whilst most of the financial services types quizzed by ELP’s researchers felt regulators were focusing in the right areas and treating them broadly fairly, insurance industry folk reported feeling outrageously victimised and otherwise put upon.

It’s all a bit unfortunate, commented ELP financial services investigations senior associate (FSISA) and former Live Birds star Polly James, who fears things could get a bit fraught between insurance people and the Peaks.

“We wonder,” she ventures tentatively, “whether the shortfall in sector-specific knowledge that our insurance sector respondents have highlighted is introducing an unnecessary level of tension into the regulatory process for insurers.”

Polly has an intriguing theory of her own as to where the problem lies, detecting more than a whiff of academic outoftouchness. “I sense,” she confides, “that there is still an element of the ‘dreaming spires’ in the regulators’ perception of the insurance industry – it’s seen as remote, inaccessible and a little bit stuck in the past.”

The insurance industry – remote inaccessible and stuck in the past?! Or perhaps she means the Peaks.

Fear not, however, Polly has a plan. “More needs to be done,” she argues, “to get insurance companies and their regulators onto the same page.” That, she intuits, will help to make “the supervisory relationship more fruitful.”

Fruitfulness is good!

PP


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