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U.K. brokers plan flood insurance for small businesses


(Reuters) — British insurance brokers are working on ways to make flood insurance more affordable for small businesses, following criticism that a government-backed scheme launching this year focuses only on household insurance.

Brokers help insurers by modeling the risks of natural catastrophes, although this is becoming harder as climate change sees floods across the globe increase in severity and affect new areas.

The need to act in Britain is acute as storms over the last few weeks will trigger £1.3 billion ($1.89 billion) in insurance payouts to households and businesses, the Association of British Insurers said.

Policyholders have made nearly 15,000 claims for property damage, with more than 5,000 claims from businesses, it added.

While households in flood-prone areas will be able to get cheaper insurance after launch of the Flood Re reinsurance program in April, partly funded by an industry levy, small businesses have complained that they are excluded.

The British Insurance Brokers' Association, however, said it was working on flood insurance for small and medium-sized businesses after raising the issue of those excluded from Flood Re last year.

"We are looking to see if we can put a commercial proposition together," said Graeme Trudgill, executive director at BIBA, adding that plans would involve large insurance brokers and would not require a levy on insurers.

He declined to give further details about the plans or a launch date.

Flood Re program

Even before this year, five of the six wettest British winters on record have taken place since 2000, the ABI said, driving up the cost of household insurance by as much as four times and prompting the government to set up Flood Re.

Flood Re enables insurers to buy reinsurance policies and so offer cheaper household cover. The scheme is financed by the reinsurance premiums and also by a £180 million ($261.3 million) annual levy on insurers, which they may choose to pass on to households across the country.

Flood Re could reduce the premiums of some households in flood-prone areas by thousands of pounds, consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. said.

The Federation of Small Businesses called last month for its members to be included in Flood Re, saying research in 2015 indicated 75,000 smaller businesses in flood risk areas were finding it difficult to find affordable insurance and 50,000 were refused.

While Mike Cherry, the FSB's national policy director, was open to other potential solutions besides Flood Re, he wanted to see "rapid progress" from the insurance industry and ministers.

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