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Stability important to Lloyd's success


Lloyd's of London

1 Lime St.

London, EC3M 7HA

44-207-327-1000; Fax, 44-207-327-2389

Lloyd's of London officials have reason to be pleased with the market's recent performance, both in general and in its reinsurance sector particularly.

Earlier this year, Standard & Poor's Corp. and Fitch Ratings raised their financial strength ratings of Lloyd's to A+ from A, citing the completion of the first phase of Equitas Ltd.'s reinsurance deal with Berkshire Hathaway Corp. and the progress of Lloyd's business process reforms.

The reinsurance sector—which accounted for 34%, or £5.56 billion ($10.89 billion), of Lloyd's £16.41 billion ($32.15 billion) in 2006 gross written premiums—has also done well after a rough 2005. The sector's calendar-year 2006 combined ratio was only 80.8%, thanks partly to a light U.S. hurricane season. A large part of Lloyd's reinsurance business consists of property nonproportional treaty, catastrophe excess of loss and property facultative risks.

Business Insurance readers are also pleased with Lloyd's: They voted Lloyd's the best overall property/ casualty reinsurer in BI's 2007 Readers Choice Awards.

Lloyd's benefits from a number of strengths, says Wendy Baker, president of Lloyd's America in New York.

Most important are the financial security, stability and size that are reflected in Lloyd's rating upgrades from S&P and Fitch, she said.

The reinsurance industry needs a subscription market such as Lloyd's, she added, to take on risks that are too large or too hazardous for individual reinsurance companies to assume much of. The Lloyd's market is especially efficient at spreading those risks, she said.

And while it's sometimes hard for buyers to meet with the top underwriting executive at a reinsurance company, key Lloyd's underwriters are almost always available and have the authority to act for their syndicates, Ms. Baker said.

"They have the ability to make that (underwriting) decision. They don't have to go to a committee or the chief underwriting officer," she said.

Lloyd's is also "a truly global organization, and has been for its history," going back to 17th century London, she added.

"People talk about globalization, but it's nothing new for Lloyd's," Ms. Baker said.