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Get your jump suit on

Sometimes we spend so much time knocking
something that we forget how good it is, or
how far it has come. Nowhere do we do this
more than in London.

As a broker starting out 15 years ago I
remembered our small team feeling particularly
pleased with ourselves because we had
been able to place a piece of very difficult, but
very lucrative Spanish Armoured Car business
into London.

Flushed with our success at completing a tricky order after
a hard slog round the emaciated market of 1993, we burst back into
the office and flung the slip over to one of our technicians with a triumphant
swagger. We were on top of the world.

Armoured Car is a funny class of business. Because it moves, marine
cargo specie people write it.

The leader was a marine underwriter in
Lloyd’s — no problem there, we were Lloyd’s brokers after all. Then we
had a bit of following action from some of the more adventurous types at
the company market’s marine and aviation bourse, the ILU. Armoured car
is also about money and so Bankers’ Blanket Bond (BBB) underwriters
might be persuaded to have a go at it. Most of the BBB guys were in the
company market, which cleared through LIRMA.

We then got the customary line from Generali’s London branch to
finish the placement off. Little had we known when we embarked on
our placement that we were creating a nightmare for ourselves.
one policy had to be signed by three separate bureaux.

This little slip was going on a grand tour of the South of England
— with trips to the LPSO in Chatham, LIRMA in Folkestone, wherever
the ILU had its back office (this fact escapes me 15 years on — but some
things are best forgotten).

It was also going to be accounted for especially
with Generali, which wasn’t in any London bureau (despite being
probably the most active underwriter in the company market).

Thank goodness we didn’t get a claim — I suspect our Spanish customers
would have been waiting for their money for rather a long time!

Now look at today’s unified outsourced bureau with gleaming
electronic claims files, accounting and settlement, market repositories,
wordings databases, extremely high contract certainty and quality,
and throw in secure electronic placing systems and communications
hubs, and compare it to what we used to have.

To paraphrase the unforgettable opening credits of the hit seventies
TV show The Six Million Dollar Man;

“London, insurance market. A market
barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology.
We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic market. London
will be that market. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster.”

You had better believe it — I used to be sceptical, even cynical
about the prospect of meaningful London reform — but I’m not now.

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