QBE’s European CEO has revealed plans for the business to engage more with regional brokers, and says its new post-Brexit base will be operational by the end of the year.
The insurer’s European arm yesterday posted an insurance profit of £249 million for 2017, up 6.9% from 2016, despite what it called “challenging market conditions.” The business said it had a year of “solid underwriting performance” with a combined operating ratio of 95.2% and Gross Written Premium of £3,144 million.
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Those numbers are in contrast to QBE’s wider group results for the year, which saw it post a record loss and offload businesses in in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico to Zurich.
At a press briefing, QBE Europe CEO Richard Pryce said the business had not “overtly chased” under-priced catastrophe business over the last several years, and that was reflected in the results.
“A year like 2017 is a year that tests your approach to risk management and underwriting discipline, and I think we’ve come out of it pretty well,” he said.
On the business’s Brexit plans, which will see it create a new subsidiary in Belgium, Pryce said things were “progressing well.”
He described the regulator in Belgium as being “constructive and challenging” in the right balance, and said the new base is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.
“We have not gotten embroiled or distracted by the political debate one way or the other,” he said. “We’ve decided that at face value, we are not going to be able to operate in those European countries unless we create a new legal entity, and the sooner we can do it the better.”
As a result, business in Europe is expected to receive a boost, according to Pryce.
“Our insurance and reinsurance businesses in Europe have been growing steadily, they’re almost standout growth areas of our business over the least three or four years,” he said.
“We think this will link us a lot more closely to our customers, because we’ll be right in the centre of Europe, and we will carry on being a European business serving European insurance and reinsurance customers. I would expect to carry on growing in those areas as a consequence of that.”
In the UK, QBE will be building ties with more regional brokers going forward, and will have a “more visible marketing campaign going into 2018,” Pryce said.
“I think you’ll find that we’ll probably be more engaged with some of the regional brokers than we have been,” he said, adding that the business did not want to just be relying on the larger, national brokers.