Successfully negotiating claims since 1867
A small but important part of our business involves European-based interests. What we do, assisting in the administration of insurance contracts, is a regulated activity under the 2000 legislation that gave effect to a European directive on financial services requiring compliant legislation by each member state. Our authorisation by the Financial Conduct Authority, based on that directive, entitles us, subject only to the administrative process known as passporting, to do what we do anywhere in the EU and the EAA.
How this will affect our clients when we are no longer in the EU depends on two factors: where the risk is; where is the insurer.
Our commonest foreign involvement is for UK policyholders who insure a European property or business with a UK-authorised insurer, and have a claim at, say, their holiday home. All our dealings with the insurer for example on liability or in settlement negotiations fall within the UK framework and don’t present a problem. Difficulties could arise when we want to deal with the client’s professionals and contractors in the country where the risk is.
We currently have little knowledge about the degree to which other EU members have introduced regulation for policyholder advocacy and assistance. Previously, when asked to handle a claim for a European risk, all we have had to do is check our passporting for, for example, Bulgaria, or immediately make an application for passporting rights in that country. Having done that, we’re legal. On the assumption that each individual EU member has the same regime as the UK, after Brexit we run the risk of acting contrary to Bulgarian law if we deal with local contractors and surveyors.
We have recently advised a UK citizen and resident policyholder on a claim for his French house covered by a French insurer. Currently all legal. But should it become necessary to deal with the insurer after Brexit, not so. And that, despite our in-house language skills and colleagues with years of experience of French practice. Only a French authorised professional would be acknowledged by the insurer.
Let’s look also at EU residents and companies with property here in the UK. If the property is insured in the UK, no problem as that’s routine work for us. But what if it’s insured in, say, Germany? We shall be allowed to do all the preliminary work of protecting the client’s interests after a claim event and working on the quantum. But it’s still uncertain whether we can conduct negotiations directly with the German insurer, or address liability issues with them.
The uncertainty is unsettling, but we are optimistic that we can continue to handle claims with a European element without too much disruption. The colleagues who handle these matters make a number of generalisations: Germans are pragmatic and helpful; the French are protective but we know how to involve them; and in Italy, Spain and Greece, who there cares enough to shop us? Yes, we shall have to change some of our working practices, but have no intention of declining such work.
In Ireland our Northern Irish unit will have no problems at all continuing to do business in the Republic, as always.
We hope that our legislators will bring some clarity to these uncertainties in the transition period, but in the meantime, we at Thompson and Bryan can continue to take work anywhere in the world.
Oh, and as an aside, our professional qualifications will no longer be automatically recognised as equivalent to those in other EU states. All those exams!