Richard Ward, the chief executive of Lloyd's of London, vented his frustration at the billions that insurers have spent complying with European red tape yesterday.
"We could have probably bailed out Cyprus with the amount of money we've all spent," he said. "It cost Lloyd's about £300m to prepare for Solvency II [new capital rules for insurers], which were then postponed. It is frustrating."
His comments came as Lloyd's swung back into the black with a £2.77bn pre-tax profit in 2012, compared with a £516m loss the year before. The world's largest insurance market was hit by £10.1bn of claims during the period, including £1.4bn from Superstorm Sandy, which struck the Caribbean and North America last October. This compares with the £12.9bn in claims the market faced in 2011, its costliest year following earthquakes in New Zealand and floods in Thailand.
Lloyd's, which underwrote £25.5bn of business last year, said its investment returns had grown by almost 4 per cent to £1.3bn, despite low interest rates. The market's combined ratio improved from 106.8 per cent to 91.1 per cent, effectively meaning that Lloyd's paid out 91p in claims for every pound in premiums it took.
"These are very strong results in the current economic climate," Mr Ward added. "Cyprus has served as a reminder that the problems in Europe have not gone away."