Lloyd's of London stumbled to a major loss of £516m in a year of what the insurance market called "unprecedented catastrophe," but bonuses for senior executives still rose.
The losses are topped only by those made in 2001, when the 9/11 terror attacks put Lloyd's in the red to the tune of £3.1bn.
A series of major disasters last year, including floods in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand, saw Lloyd's insurers face claims of £12.9bn. That they were able to pay these claims will be taken as a sign of the market's strength, especially given that low interest rates mean insurers are getting a low return on the premiums they take.
Richard Ward, chief executive, said: "Make no mistake, 2011 was a difficult year for the insurance industry. Given the scale of the claims, a loss is unsurprising, but it reflects what we're here to do – help communities and businesses rebuild after disaster."
Mr Ward picked up a bonus of £752,000 for his work in 2011, taking his total pay to £1.44m. That's down a bit on a year earlier, but the bonus payment was higher.
Lloyd's noted that no one picked up a "market performance bonus" due to the lack of profits. The bonuses they did get "come through from previous years," said a Lloyd's spokesman.
Tom Bolt, director of performance management, saw his bonus stay level at £450,000, taking his total pay to just over £1m.
Luke Savage, finance director, received £893,000 including a £338,000 bonus, up by £13,000. The remuneration committee is chaired by Andreas Prindl. His pay for a part-time role rose £20,000 to £104,000.
Mr Ward said he thought that the losses mean that rates should rise, but the amount of capital flowing into the market is keeping them low. He said: "I am disappointed that, given the exceptional level of catastrophes in 2011, insurance rates have not responded more positively."