Technology and automation are ‘top strategic’ priorities but more complex regulations remain a challenge
UK insurance businesses are “bullish” about London’s future as an international hub, according to the latest report from Lloyds Bank, despite concerns about a more complex regulatory landscape post Brexit.
The UK fully left the European Union, its biggest single export customer, in December 2020. It has raised concerns about the capital’s clout in global finance, with insurers among those relocating headquarters from London to the Continent in the run-up.
Lloyds Bank’s sixth Financial Institutions Sentiment Survey 2021 interviewed 24 insurance industry leaders between 15 June and 19 July 2021, and also quizzed major banks and wealth management firms and intermediaries across the UK.
The survey revealed that 71% of respondents believe that London will retain its status as one of the world’s leading finance centres post-Brexit - around 76% of insurers expected to grow revenues, compared with only 56% of banks.
Richard Askey, head of insurance at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s encouraging to see insurers emerge from a period of such significant disruption confident in their own growth prospects and London’s position as a financial centre.
“However, the whole sector, including firms across the life, non-life and broker markets, are facing into an increasingly complex regulatory environment.
”To realise their growth ambitions, firms must draw on the same grit and determination that has served them so well during the pandemic.”
Technology a strategic priority
Technology, automation and digital investment remained “top strategic” priorities for another year, cited by 77% of overall respondents.
Top technology investment priorities included the cloud (83%), application processing interfaces (77%) and data science, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (69%).
The cloud was also a top priority last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic forcing many firms to digitally transform - as a result, many businesses were inherently more vulnerable to cyber attacks because of colleagues working from home.
Cyber crime risk was up from 38% to 50% year-on-year according to Lloyds Bank’s report, but only 29% of surveyed firms cited cyber resilience as a strategic priority, down from 34% last year.
Analysis of a million insurance claims by the financial sector further revealed cyber incidents and cyber crime as the top cause of losses.
Lloyds Bank’s survey quoted research from BAE Systems Applied Intelligence back in April, which found that 74% of insurers and banks saw a rise in cyber crime during the pandemic.
Regulation a top risk
The outlook of insurance firms regarding the UK economy and the wider financial service sector’s prospects have improved significantly after a challenging 2020.
Around 92% of respondents expect UK economic growth to improve over the next year - up from 19% who believed this in 2020.
Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed also believe that the UK’s economic growth will be stronger than the growth achieved by its G7 peers, compared to 5% who thought this in 2020.
Almost three-quarters of insurance businesses (71%) said a change in the regulatory landscape was one of the top risks to their UK business.
Over 440 firms in banking and finance have moved or are moving part of their business, staff, assets or legal entities from the UK to the EU, according to research by New Financial.
It found that banks have moved or are moving more than £900bn in assets from the UK to the EU, and insurance firms and asset managers have transferred more than £100bn in assets and funds.