When re-Insurance.com revealed on 6 June that Lloyd’s franchise performance director Jon Hancock had threatened under-performing syndicates that they would be closed down if their performance did not improve, some executives were privately sceptical whether the tough rhetoric would be matched by firm action.
After all, in the 16 years that the franchise regime has operated at Lloyd’s, few significant syndicates have effectively been closed down because of poor performance. Indeed, arguably the most prominent - Goshawk Syndicate 102 - occurred at the very infancy of the franchise process in October 2003 under the orders of Lloyd’s first underwriting tsar, Rolf Tolle.
There can be no doubt now.
In the past two months, a number of managing agents have cut back or closed loss-making business lines, not least in marine classes where Hancock is shining a particularly fierce spotlight (see table).
And then earlier this week, loss-making Lloyd’s insurer Advent confirmed plans to transfer some portfolios of business and staff to stablemate Brit Insurance and place the remainder into run-off.
That is exactly what Hancock said he would do when he called a high level meeting of senior Lloyd’s executives in May this year.
And to highlight his influence behind the Brit-Advent move, the 11 July press release even had an accompanying statement from him.
But the proposed Advent-Brit deal was made easier by the fact that both businesses are owned by Canadian conglomerate Fairfax Financial.
That won’t be the case with other underperforming Lloyd’s businesses which have been charged with persuading Hancock’s team that they can turn their underperformance around.
Hancock is thought to be scrutinising twenty syndicates, together with seven business classes - including marine hull, cargo and yacht.
In other words, expect more action which is likely to lead to business transfers, M&A or outright run-off.
Re-insurance.com applauds Hancock’s approach. Lloyd’s will always suffer significant losses in a high-loss year such as 2017 but it is the stubbornly high attritional loss ratio which is of greater concern.
Lloyd’s is facing a number of strategic pressures - high expense base, fast-evolving distribution methods and competitors with cheaper sources of capital - but de-leveraging and shrinking is an essential component of returning to core profitability.
It hasn’t always been the case on Lime Street but Hancock is matching rhetoric with action. Bravo.