UK insurers call for smarter regulation as EU market grows in importance

Smarter regulation to reduce the obstacles to doing business in Europe should be the key priority for the European Union, according to research by the Association of British Insurers.

The European Issues Index is the first survey of its kind of the views of chief executives of UK insurance and savings companies. It shows a strong desire to expand across the EU, but significant regulatory and other hurdles in the way of making this a reality. The Issues Index reflects the views of 81 CEOs representing 73% of the UK life and general insurance market.

Mary Francis, director general of the ABI, says: “EU issues are a top priority for UK insurers, who understand that decisions made in Brussels are more and more important to their businesses. The UK retail insurance market is the largest in the EU. Our members are well placed to seize opportunities across Europe as the Single Market develops, whether through cross-border selling, or through subsidiaries. But much recent regulation from Brussels has increased the burden of regulation in the UK and across the EU, without creating genuine new commercial opportunities. We want to see smarter regulation to make it easier to do business in all parts of the Union.”

Key findings from the European Issues Index include:

  • EU issues will become even more important over the next five years. 71% of Chief Executives believe that EU issues are very or quite important today. Looking five years ahead, this rises to 88%.
  • There are still significant obstacles to doing business in the EU. 22% of respondents cite the burdensome level of regulation, while 29% cite access to distribution channels as the biggest obstacles to doing business in Europe.
  • New EU-wide solvency rules should be a top priority for the European Commission. For 34% of Chief Executives, achieving common solvency rules is the first priority for EU action. 30% see EU-wide conduct of business rules as a key area for further action.
  • There is limited support for an EU-wide insurance regulator. 58% of Chief Executives currently oppose this idea, compared to 29% who voiced their support.
  • Germany is viewed by many as the most attractive EU market for expansion. By market share 55% of Life, 39% of General and 42% of Composite insurers share this view.

    Simon Gentry, the ABI&#39s head of European affairs, says: “The research shows a high level of awareness of EU issues among UK insurance industry chiefs. Many UK companies are already active in other EU markets and are very successful. The industry in the UK &#45 which includes many companies based in other EU markets – is well equipped to exploit the opportunities of a more liberal approach across the EU as a whole. The Commission must now work with us to remove the obstacles to expansion and increased efficiency in other markets.”

    The ABI is working closely with the Commission to shape the Solvency regime for the EU.