Lloyd’s Plans for Post-Brexit Subsidiary

Just one day after the U.K. set in motion its process for withdrawal from the European Union by triggering Article 50, Lloyd’s announced it was establishing a subsidiary in Brussels, intending to be able to write EU business for the Jan. 1, 2019, renewal season.

The new company will write risks from all 27 European Union countries and three European Economic Area states once Brexit is completed. Because Britain remains a full member of the EU for at least two more years, there will be no immediate impact on existing policies, renewals or new policies, including multi-year policies written during this period of time, the insurer said. The Brussels subsidiary will have its own board of directors and, unlike some banks that have said they will move hundreds of employees to the EU, it will only employ dozens of staff in areas such as information technology and compliance.

Hank Watkins, president of Lloyd’s North America spoke to Risk Management about the company’s plans and the why it chose Belgium as its new location.

RM: How did the process of finding a new EU base begin?

Watkins: Within a week or two of [the Brexit vote] last June, Lloyd’s was on its way, looking across Europe for a new domicile, if you will, for our European business. We are not moving out of London—what we have done is set up an insurance company in Brussels, purely to allow us to passport around the European Union. Because we are not necessarily confident that the U.K. will be able to negotiate passporting rights with the other countries, we are assuming they are not. If they are ultimately successful, then we will just close up and go back home, but that probably will not be the case.

RM: How will the subsidiary work?

Watkins: If you are a policyholder with Lloyd’s, where you previously would have received a policy with all of the syndicates subscribed to it, and that would have been stamped by each of those syndicates, you will also receive an identical policy for the European exposures. It will have the Lloyd’s insurance company name on it and the syndicate stamp of that insurance company and the Lloyd’s syndicates. It is just a little more paperwork for us. The policy is the same—it does not change coverage and it does not change pricing—It is more of an administrative effort to align with what the regulator expects. And our ratings are not affected, we are still S&P-, AM Best- and Fitch-rated A or better and the central fund is still very strong.

RM: Why Belgium?

Watkins: We found a regulator there who is allowing us basically to cede 100% of the premium and the risk back to the syndicate in London. Every other country has some variation of wanting to maintain part of the risk in their country but that does not work for us. So Belgium is a very strong regulator centered in the heart of Europe and a great talent pool as we build out the platform—which won’t be that large, by the way, because we are not necessarily moving people there.

RM: How will insureds be impacted?

Watkins: Companies with no risks in the European Union will see no impact, and it will be seamless for international companies with risks in the EU. Also, it is probably not as well known, but because we are not just large, commercial risks, we do insure a lot of homeowners on the coastlines and a number of private yachts and aircraft, so this is a way to seamlessly include coverage for them in Europe as well.

Lloyd’s to Establish EU Base in Brussels

One day after the U.K. set in motion its process for withdrawal from the European Union by triggering Article 50, Lloyd’s announced that it has chosen Brussels as the location for its European Union subsidiary.

A market of syndicates in London, Lloyd’s said its intention is to be ready to write business for the Jan. 1, 2019, renewal season. The move will enable the company to write risks from all 27 European Union countries and three European Economic Area states once the U.K. has left the EU. Because Britain remains a full member of the EU for at least two more years, there is no immediate impact on existing policies, renewals or new policies, including multi-year policies written during this period of time, according to the insurer.

In 2015, the EEA accounted for £2.93 billion ($3.66 billion) or 11% of its gross written premium, the organization said.

“It is important that we are able to provide the market and customers with an effective solution that means business can carry on without interruption when the U.K. leaves the EU,” Lloyd’s Chief Executive Inga Beale said in a statement. She added that Brussels met the critical elements of providing a robust regulatory framework in a central location.

“We are a market, we are unique, we are not like an insurance company – we needed to find a regulator with the resources and the bandwidth to regulate the Lloyd’s market,” Chairman John Nelson told Reuters.

Nelson said the Brussels subsidiary would employ dozens of staff in areas such as compliance and information technology, unlike banks that have said they may move hundreds of staff to the EU. The regulated company will also have its own board.

U.S. insurer AIG recently announced it was moving its headquarters from London to Luxembourg, and Lloyd’s insurer Hiscox is in the process of choosing between Luxembourg and Malta.

While the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union may have sometimes been a fractious one, the decision by 52% of its voters to leave the world’s biggest single market was an outcome that many experts and businesses did not expect, Neil Hodge wrote in the August 2016 Risk Management Magazine.

A month before the June 23 referendum, the 100 Group, which represents finance directors from the U.K.’s biggest companies, conducted a survey that found that not one of its members supported a British exit—or “Brexit”—from the EU. This view was echoed by Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the U.K.’s leading pro-business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). “The decision to leave the EU is not one that business would have chosen to take,” she said. “We know that the majority of our members wanted to stay in.”

Brexit Creates Turmoil

Brexit
Britain’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union has left many unanswered questions, some of which may not be resolved for years as Britain and the EU iron out the details of the split. Meanwhile, in the wake of the announcement, oil prices dropped, global stock markets have taken a significant hit, the Euro and the British Pound plunged.

Fitch said today that overall, Britain’s decision is broadly “credit negative” for most U.K. sectors.

During a Eurasia Group conference call this morning, Europe associate Charles Lichfield asserted, “The U.K. has lost relevance to Washington.” In the past, he explained, the United States has worked closely with Britain on many European issues, but will now bolster relations with Germany, Spain and other countries, bypassing Britain.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The move triggered a selloff across markets dragging down the British poundcommodities and shares in U.K.-listed banks, utilities and oil-and gas companies including BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, whose shares fell 6.2% and 4.9%, respectively.

A spokesman for Shell said the company will work with the U.K. government and European institutions on navigating a British exit from the EU, known as Brexit. The Bank of England announced it was prepared to use its $371.85 billion war chest to stabilize the market.

The uncertainty in the marketplace after the referendum could hurt oil companies by exacerbating the already-challenging environment created by lower oil prices. In the aftermath of the vote, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to step down.

The referendum is expected to jolt the U.S. economy, likely driving up the value of the dollar.

Members of the insurance industry and their buyers are wondering what the impact on Lloyd’s and the London market will be. So far, Lloyd’s has maintained a cool façade.

“I am confident that Lloyd’s will stay at the center of the global specialist insurance and reinsurance sector, and I look forward to continuing our valuable relationship with our European partners,” Chairman John Nelson said in a statement on the vote. “For the next two years our business is unchanged. Lloyd’s has a well prepared contingency plan in place and Lloyd’s will be fully equipped to operate in the new environment.”

The Financial Times, however, expects the insurance sector to be “hit hard” by the vote and that the impact could have a negative impact on the London market.

According to the FT, “One of the big attractions to insurers of operating via Lloyd’s is that it has passporting rights into the EU. Many of the insurers who do business there at the moment say that after a Brexit they will simply shift some of their business to subsidiaries within the EU, bypassing the Lloyd’s market in the process.”

Brexit is also expected to have more impact on the life insurance market than property/casualty. “The impact on the non-life insurers was more muted, given that many of them have little cross-border business and hold very conservative investment portfolios. Shares in Direct Line, RSA and Admiral were all down in mid-single digits,” according to the FT.