Most financial analysts believe that demutualisation of financial institutions is inevitable across the board, and that “even the big ones will go.” They believe it is only a matter of time.
It is often said that the insurance industry lags behind the banking industry by a few years, in terms of restructuring and going into new markets. In the UK, we are already at the stage where there are very few building societies left, and the life assurance industry is going the same way. Very few mutual life insurers remain, even now. Equitable Life, the oldest mutual life insurer in Europe, has fallen. It may not be long before Standard Life, Europe's largest mutual life insurer, goes the same way. This would leave only a few very small mutual life companies without the size or power to have any influence on the future of the UK life insurance industry.
However, within the insurance sector there are still some very strong pockets of mutuality, where the companies involved have a very deeply entrenched position in the market, or even a near monopoly. Examples include the French motor mutuals, Norwegian mutual pension providers, French Mutualité de Quarante-Cinq health insurers, and, of course, the P&I Clubs.
Another factor supporting the mutual ethos is success in maintaining strong links with members through the existence of some commonality between them, in terms of their job or business. P&I Clubs fall into this category, since all their members are involved in the same industry.
Standard & Poor's thinks that it is highly likely that P&I Clubs could be among the last organisations to adhere to the tradition of mutuality, given that clubs have a very dominant position in their market and represent a coherent group of members with the same concerns, interests, and operating environment. When one considers the highly effective lobbying power of the International Group, it can be seen that the clubs have a very privileged position indeed, which it is very much in their interests to retain as long as possible.