When Tim Carroll became the first chairman of the International Underwriting Association on 1 January 1999, he said the association would challenge the status quo. What has this meant in practice and what difference has it actually made? In this article, he offers his assessment of progress to date.

The board of the International Underwriting Association (IUA) has been determined from day one that the association should be more than just a continuation of the old ILU and LIRMA, its two constituent organisations, even though these associations did a valuable job. A brand new organisation can only be judged by what it achieves going forward and, as I said at the outset, we are determined to make a difference, rather than just sit back and react to events.

It would obviously be premature, after just a few months, to declare whether or not the project has been successful. What we can claim, however, is that we have set out our objectives in an uncompromising way. The IUA has a clear idea of where it is aiming and that, in itself, is a step forward after years of division between two different trade associations.

Indeed, our overall approach is flagged up in the name itself - incorporating, as it does, the words “international” and “London”. There is no longer a fundamental conflict between these two concepts as there was, perhaps, to an earlier generation of insurance and reinsurance executives.

Our members are international in both composition and outlook, from around 40 different countries; and this is even more true of their customers. At the same time, all our ordinary members trade through London and its systems, and so have an interest in seeing it provide the best possible environment to support their business activities.

These considerations shape our outlook, and explain why our top strategic priority is to support and develop the London market in an international context. Our success in doing so over the next 18 months to two years will largely determine whether we achieve our main strategic objectives.

Of course, we must never lose sight of the more routine, but essential reasons why people are members of the IUA in the first place. Since the merger, we have stepped up our representational, educational, research and information activities, as well as the technical support that we give the market.

Of particular importance, the new marine committee has reaffirmed its commitment to the maritime industry worldwide and its co-operation with Lloyd's. The joint committees will continue, although we are reviewing how they function to see whether there are improvements to be made.

Indeed, all the services previously provided by both associations are being scrutinised to ensure that they continue to be relevant and delivered in the best possible way. There have already been changes to the committee structure, which has been streamlined to ensure that the practitioners who give their valuable time find it is put to best effect.

The London Processing Centre (LPC) is arguably the IUA's most import single responsibility. It is a highly successful operation, but information technology is changing rapidly, as are the business needs of its clients. As with everything else we do, its operations are under review.

Vital though these membership services are, they do not operate in a vacuum. If the IUA is to make its mark, it must help shape the big picture. Our members - and all those with an interest in the international insurance and reinsurance markets - look to the IUA to provide leadership, especially in London.

We have already staked out our position on this issue. London is a tremendous asset to the international insurance and reinsurance industries, but it needs to be streamlined and made more efficient and user-friendly.

Both Lloyd's and the IUA are keen to work together to bring about the necessary reforms, and we have already made a start. The activities of the two bureaux are being synchronised, and we have started the lengthy process of removing duplication. Although we have ruled out a merger of the bureaux in the short term because the exercise would be too distracting, it remains a long-term option.

We are also working with Lloyd's in a number of other areas, like education and training, policy processing and wordings, to help bring about a seamless market.We are actively supporting moves to bring together the three main IT networks for insurers and reinsurers - RINET, WIN and LIMNET. When this is eventually achieved - and it is being carried out in consultation with the North American network IVANS - easy, electronic cross-border trading will become a reality. Our vision is of a global industry free from physical constraint.

The IUA and its predecessors have worked hard to dispel the Fortress London mentality that once made for a more insular working environment. I believe that our success will make London a better place to do business and will strengthen its contribution to the global strategies of our members.

Tim Carroll is chairman of the International Underwriting Association of London. He is also chief executive of ERC Frankona Re's non-life operations.