OUR INSURER of the year award celebrates firms from across the industry, ranging from small specialists to global giants.

Lloyd’s of London firms such as Lancashire qualify for their commitment to innovation and personal service in a global marketplace.

Meanwhile the changing face of the British insurance business is recognised with the nomination of firms such as Prudential. Once a very traditional UK-centric company, it now occupies a strong position across Asian markets.

Last year was an unpleasant period for non-life insurers who were hit by substantial claims from earthquakes and floods around the world. But those testing times enabled the very best firms below to bounce back stronger than ever.

The catastrophe specialist has recovered from a tricky 2011 to boost its share price by almost a third over the last 12 months. Now the largest syndicate in Lloyd’s of London, it has led the way in international expansion with around half its business written outside the UK, assisted by strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Gross premiums for the first quarter of 2012 were $1.6bn – an increase of 12 per cent.

Chairman Robert Hiscox will step down at the end of this financial year, ending 43 years in charge of the firm that bears his name. He leaves the company in good shape, having grown it from an old-fashioned Lloyd’s business to be a FTSE 250 firm with a strong retail division. The firm recently launched a prominent cinema and TV advertising campaign using the firm’s tagline “as good as our word”.

Continued speculation over its threats to relocate outside Europe cannot detract from the Pru’s global success. Chief executive Tidjane Thiam has overcome the failure of his bid for part of AIG and survived a shareholder pay revolt to lead a firm that shows more growth potential than most British insurers. Profits at its Asian business grew by 32 per cent last year, contributing a third of its £2bn earnings.

Specialist Lloyd’s of London insurer Lancashire boasts impressive performance for a firm that was only founded in 2005. Its terrific profit record has allowed it to reward investors, who have seen their shares rise by 50 per cent in the last two years. Chief executive Richard Brindle likes to boast that his FTSE 250 firm can outwit competitors by avoiding internal bureaucracy and preferring a collective decision making process. The Bermuda-based

Jardine Lloyd Thompson
The insurance broker has outperformed the rest of the non-life insurance sector for almost five years by concentrating on specialist areas such as aerospace, life sciences and telecommunications. At the end of last year, shareholder Jardine Matheson announced its intention to increase its holding from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, widely seen as a vote of confidence in the management.