THE management of risk has always been at the heart of the City’s business, and in these turbulent times it has never been more important. The five firms on our shortlist work across the whole sector, from shipping and the oil industry to motor insurance. All of them have innovated and continue to flourish.
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Of all the areas that our shortlisted firms work in, motoring is perhaps the toughest. But Admiral has made a fantastic success of it, with pre-tax profits for the first half of 2010 jumping 21 per cent to £126.9m. The group’s customer numbers increased by 23 per cent to almost 2.4m. Meanwhile, its operation in Spain, called Balumba, made a profit too – others in the US, Italy and Germany haven’t yet, but you wouldn’t bet against them.
Formerly known as Jardine Lloyd Thompson, the firm formally re-branded itself JLT last year, and in the 12 months since it has gone from strength to strength, and income for the first half of 2010 rose 40 per cent. Half the profit on the retail side of the business came from Australasia, with an impressive 24 per cent growth in that market. A truly global player with an eye on the future, it also saw good performance in Canada, Latin America and Asia.
The firm has repositioned itself in recent times, moving away from property and towards the flourishing energy sector. Unlike many in that sector, however, it escaped from the Deepwater Horizon disaster with relatively few losses. Results for the first half of the year showed that it delivered a return on equity of 7.5 per cent for the first half of the year, while its combined ratio for the second quarter was 51.5 per cent.
Operating profits were up 10 per cent to £182m in the first half, largely because of its overseas earnings. The City stalwart makes our list, though, because it has stuck up for the UK as a place to invest. When the Pru was engaged in its ill-fated venture into Asia, Standard Life CEO David Nish – who took over the top job at the end of last year – criticised it and other firms of looking to Asia rather than at opportunities closer to home. “The UK is a stunning place to do business,” he said. Bravo.
The world’s third-largest insurance broker recently announced revenues of $2.8bn for the year to June 2010. It’s a far cry from 1998, when the aerospace, marine, construction, and energy specialist was bought out for $3 a share by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. But since then it has flourished and in 2008 it pushed through the acquisition of Hilb Rogal & Hobbs for $2.1bn. If confidence counts for anything, then Willis has a bright future: last year it re-named it Chicago HQ, formerly known as the Sears Building, the Willis Building.