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Brokers

Post-Brexit Game Plan

As Britain’s separation from the EU looms closer, businesses and their brokers strategize.
By: | April 7, 2017 • 6 min read

Now that the official wheels are in motion for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union by 2019, companies that have operations in the UK or conduct significant business there need to develop contingency plans for however the Brexit negotiations proceed.

The UK government’s plan is for a so-called “hard” Brexit, meaning that it plans to leave the EU single market and introduce some immigration controls over people coming from the EU into the UK, said David Gent, legal director at Bird & Bird in London. The UK would also no longer be a member of the EU Customs Union, which could mean some trade tariffs between the UK and EU.

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“The precise terms of trade between the UK and the EU will be uncertain until a new free trade agreement between the two is negotiated,” Gent said. “There’s also a possibility that the UK and EU will not be able to reach an agreement.”

There’s also uncertainty over what the terms of a potential trade deal may be between the UK and the U.S., and how that might impact U.S. companies doing business in the UK, he said.

“The UK is commonly used by U.S. companies as a gateway country to trading with the EU, but after Brexit companies may want to rethink this, or if entering the EU market for the first time, look at another country instead,” Gent said.

Industry Impact

The financial services sector is expected to be particularly impacted, and many firms may move jobs to mainland Europe, he said.

Many U.S. life sciences companies have also established their European headquarters in the UK, and there’s been uncertainty about the future of the regulatory environment, including the conduct of clinical trials and approval procedures for medications and medical devices, said Sally Shorthose, a Bird & Bird partner. Currently the UK regime is “intricately incorporated” in the EU system, and the UK government has announced it would continue close relationships with EU regulators.

“… The changing strategic profile also changes the strategic risk profile. As a result, we just want to make sure the company’s insurance and risk management programs are performing at an optimal level.” — David Molony, risk finance consultant.

“My discussions with pharmaceutical companies indicate that if the UK is not part of the same regulatory environment, it would then become part of a third or fourth wave jurisdiction to get approval for new medicines,” Shorthose said. “If they have to pay once for EU approvals, they might not pay again for UK approvals in a hurry.”

The demand for goods and services from all types of U.S. businesses might be impacted by a downturn in the UK economy due to Brexit, as well as changes in UK regulations, said Eric Siegel, a partner at Dechert LLP in Philadelphia.

U.S. exporters should consider currency hedges if the UK pound falls further relative to the dollar, Siegel said. For example, a hedge that allows a U.S. business to convert pound-denominated sales into a stable dollar amount, or a hedge that pays off when the pound falls, could allow a U.S. business to keep its prices from going up for UK customers.

Building a Plan

Aon Risk Solutions is now offering clients a three-step Brexit Navigator tool to determine what could happen to their risk management, insurance and business continuity management programs after Brexit, said David Molony, a risk finance consultant for the firm in London. Initial risk assessments are based on how clients are currently using the “four freedoms of movement” that exist between the UK and EU — goods, services, capital and people — and how those freedoms could change after negotiations.

The next phase of Brexit Navigator involves the potential redesign of a client’s risk management and insurance programs if the client has to restructure its operations, he said.

David Molony, risk finance consultant

“Say a German company is selling goods in the UK, but if a there’s a potential tariff that reduces its profit margin, the company could then decide to concentrate business elsewhere,” Molony said. “That means the changing strategic profile also changes the strategic risk profile. As a result, during this phase we just want to make sure the company’s insurance and risk management programs are performing at an optimal level.”

During the tool’s execution and resilience testing phase, Aon will help clients determine whether their business continuity management strategies are still appropriate, depending on the changing business environment, whether or not they have the same number of employees in every location, and whether they’re still operating in those locations or in new locations.

Revisiting Legal Structures

Brexit could significantly impact the business operating models of insurance companies based in the UK and those who transact global business through a UK entity, said Greg Galeaz, U.S. insurance industry leader at PwC in Boston.

“If they continue to operate in the UK and then set up another operation, that could create some level of inefficiency and require additional capital,” Galeaz said.

Companies will also need to review their legal entity structures to determine both their capital and tax effectiveness post-Brexit.

Mark Weil, chief executive of Marsh UK and Ireland, said that the brokerage firm is concerned about the possible loss of passporting and the ability it affords clients to access insurers across the EU from a single country license. Insurers are acting to establish local licenses inside the remaining EU, so that they can passport from there.

“That’s Plan A,” Weil said. “It does, though, have some risk — the most obvious one is being timed out by the process. So we think clients and insurers need a Plan B that doesn’t depend on governments and regulators and which puts them back in control, keeping firms’ access to the broadest set of choices.”

Marsh has offices and licenses in all EU countries, giving it the ability to wholesale from its EU office network into the UK and vice versa, he said. The firm has shaped a “bridge” structure based on fronting that it uses in other regions such as Latin America, a structure that European insurers used before the single EU market and passporting existed.

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Brexit could also increase the tax burden for multinationals, said David Jaffe, principal of Jaffe Counsel plc. Multinationals currently can move dividends up and down the corporate chain throughout the EU without tax consequences, but after Brexit, there may be tax costs for companies paying dividends to their UK units.

“The thing to remember is that this is going to be a roller coaster for a couple of years, a great period of uncertainty regarding the UK’s negotiations with the EU, likely with a lot of gamesmanship and drama,” he said. “The key for companies is to keep flexibility in their contingency plans.”

Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds, said that the UK-EU relationship will likely stay fairly intact.

There may be some negotiations around the UK’s contribution to the EU’s budget, but for the most part, he anticipates free movement of goods, services and financial capital. &

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession: Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]