Names fume over Lloyd's buyout move

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The Independent Online
John Charman, the deputy chairman of Lloyd's of London, has inflamed a delicate debate over the future of names in the insurance market by moving to buy out the hundreds of remaining individual investors on all of his syndicates.

The move is seen by names' activists as another sign that senior figures within the Lloyd's establishment want to push out the remaining 10,000 individual investors in the whole of the insurance market to make way for corporate capital.

A Lloyd's spokesman confirmed last night that Charman Underwriting Agencies (CUA) had applied to the ruling council for permission to make an approach to names on syndicates 469, 488 and 764.

The Lloyd's spokesman pointed out that there was no question of names being forcibly removed from the syndicates. Even if regulatory approval was given, it would be up to individual investors to decide whether to accept any offer from CUA.

Lloyd's emphatically denied there was any general move to oust individual names although the spokesman accepted "there is a perception out there that this is the case".

Chris Stockwell, chairman of the Lloyd's Names Association working party, said: "This [Charman move] is just one in a series of moves that are designed to remove names. Lloyd's central management thinks that costs can be cut by raising outside capital, getting rid of members' agents and reducing the number of managing agents."

Another example of the moves against names was the recent decision by Lloyd's that individual investors must in future lodge a larger deposit than previously. Instead of the original deposit of 25 per cent, this year the figure moves up to 32.5 per cent and will rise again next year to 35 per cent.

Mr Stockwell said that when all factors were taken into consideration the real figure would be closer to 50 per cent, reducing the advantage of being a sole trader as opposed to an investor in a corporate vehicle.

Names are also concerned about a report being finalised by the market's syndicate structures working party which Lloyd's says will probably go for decision to the ruling council on 23 May.

Working party members say there will be no firm conclusions or recommendations in the report, which was the subject of a lengthy meeting on Monday night.

But the members make clear that the report will, in a round-about way, outline that there are enormous extra costs in servicing individual names, as opposed to the larger corporate providers.

One member of the working party said multi-year contracts were increasingly sought by customers.

It was difficult to provide these under the current system whereby individual names renewed their commitment to a syndicate one year at a time.