Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why London Is Still the Place to Be

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why London Is Still the Place to Be

Article excerpt

Byline: Anthony Hilton

GIVEN this country's propensity to look no further than the dark cloud shrouding every silver lining, it is perhaps to be expected that many seem to believe that the present financial crisis marks the end of London as the leading international financial centre.

It is in some ways a reasonable assumption, given the obvious fact our banks operated at a scale that outstripped the ability of the country to support them. But it is not helped by those very same banks, hedge funds and -- occasionally -- insurance companies, reacting to every bit of tax or regulation that they don't like by threatening to leave.

All the more reason therefore for us to be grateful to Andrew Kendrick, European chairman of ACE Group -- a big insurance business -- who, in a speech earlier this week quietly pointed out that since the crisis began, London has quietly reasserted itself as the capital of global insurance.

Proof for this comes not only from the business which flows through London (which is obvious), but also from overseas companies which want their base in this country.

Another example of London's strength was the decision announced in January by Aon -- shirt sponsor of Manchester United and the world's largest insurance broker -- to move its headquarters here from Chicago. But then, in contrast to all the publicity given to those threatening to quit the capital, there was scarcely any mention of Aon's decision to move.

It plans to occupy the "Cheesegrater" building presently under construction in Leadenhall Street, and when its move is complete it will mean that two of Earth's top three insurance brokers are based here.

On a smaller scale but also surely significant, Lancashire Holdings -- a relatively young company which flamboyantly based itself in Bermuda when it started up -- has now announced plans to relocate to London.

And Lloyd's itself last week had the confidence to unveil its 25-year vision for growth, which gained a greater credibility because it has survived last year's catastrophes without wiping out its capital base. As frequently burned Lloyd's Names and shareholders will testify, this has not always been the case. …

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