Insurance lobby groups to merge amid Brexit push

Some London-based insurers signalling they may transfer their businesses to Ireland

Ireland's two insurance lobby groups are planning to merge as the industry prepares for a surge in business from London following the decision by UK voters to quit the European Union.

Members of the Dublin International Insurance and Management Association (Dima) – set up in 1990 to represent international insurance and reinsurance companies based in the then-fledgling IFSC – voted on Monday, according to sources, to be absorbed into Insurance Ireland, the voice of general, life and health coverage in the State.

The move follows the departure of Dima's long-standing chief executive Sarah Goddard in July to become the Brussels-based secretary general of the Association of Mutual Insurers and Insurance Co-operatives in Europe. She was replaced by Eddy van Cutsem, a former managing director of Royal Bank of Canada's reinsurance unit in Ireland.

The merger is set to be completed in January. Insurance Ireland has about 85 members, while Dima has more than 50. A spokesman for Insurance Ireland declined to comment, while representatives from Dima didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Brexit impetus

While the amalgamation has been characterised as being under consideration for some time, Brexit has been adding impetus to the need for a single industry body, amid an expected surge in insurance activity in Ireland following the UK referendum in June.

The Central Bank's director of insurance supervision, Sylvia Cronin, was quoted in the Financial Times on Monday as saying her staff had grown by 25 per cent so far this year ahead of an expected influx of applications from London-based insurers looking to move business as a result of Brexit, to ensure they retain "passporting rights" to markets across the EU for services. The insurance division had 131 staff as of early October, with approval in place to increase that to 147.

Last week, US insurance giant AIG said it may move its European headquarters from London to another EU country following the UK referendum, with Dublin among half a dozen locations in the mix. Lloyds of London insurers Beazley and Hiscox and Cardiff-based motor insurance group Admiral have also signalled they may also move business to Dublin.

British insurer Aviva's chief executive Mark Wilson told The Irish Times earlier this month that the group is planning to change its legal structure in Ireland once again to become a fully-fledged subsidiary of its UK parent. Aviva Ireland has been operating as a branch of the UK group for general insurance since 2012 and for life insurance since last year.

"My sense was that companies wouldn't come and talk to regulators until there was some more substance [to the impact of Brexit], but the opposite seems to be occurring," Ms Cronin told the FT. "Due to the uncertainty, companies are proactively approaching us."