Coronavirus could make ailing PII even worse

Coronavirus could make ailing PII even worse

The professional indemnity insurance market could close off to more advisers due to the coronavirus crisis, experts have warned.

The PII market has been suffering in recent years due to the ongoing hardening of PII in all sectors but particularly for advisers.

This has been exacerbated by concerns over the defined benefit transfer market which has resulted in many insurers turning their backs on advisers and pulling out of the market altogether, leaving advisers only a handful of insurers to choose from.

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But the ongoing coronavirus crisis could heighten these underlying factors, according to Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, which could lead to issues for advisers down the line.

Mr Richards said: “The market turbulence around coronavirus could make these underlying factors more acute, resulting in an impact for advisers at renewal as insurers themselves struggle to cope or the capital available to PI insurers as investors could see them seek to de-risk.”

But he added the true impact of the current economic crisis was hard to predict but could cause the PI market to shrink further, making it even more difficult for advisers to get cover.

Mr Richards said: “It is possible that the market turbulence surrounding coronavirus could shrink the PI market, but it is impossible at this stage to say whether this will happen, but the impact would be significant.  

“However, even before the emergence of the threat of the coronavirus, we were seeing very serious challenges for advisers seeking PI insurance. What is needed is a radical reform of the compensation system for the UK.”

Robert Morris, partner at law firm RPC, warned if this were to happen or if the Financial Conduct Authority were to restrict the exclusions that PI policies contain, insurers would have no choice but to either push up premiums even more than they have done in the last year or stop providing PI to advisers altogether.

Most PI insurers carry policy exclusions for fund insolvency, defined benefit pension transfers and unregulated collective investment schemes (Ucis).

The FCA has recently hinted it may look into PI insurance for advisers with a view to possibly removing exclusions from policies.

But Mr Morris said doing this could force advice firms out of business.

He said: “If the FCA were to restrict the exclusions that PI policies contain, insurers will be forced either to increase premiums even more than has occurred in the last year or so (following the increase in the Fos award limit) or cease writing PI insurance for FCA regulated firms altogether, thus reducing yet further the number of insurers operating in this market.

“The consequences of this is likely to include more advisory firms being forced out of business and more claims falling on to the FSCS. Neither of which, ultimately, will benefit consumers.”

The coronavirus crisis could also force PI insurers to make changes to their exclusions.