The Nordic region collectively amounts to the sixth-largest European Union (EU) economy, with a combined GDP of around €780 billion. Each member country enjoys a high standard of living, a stable economy, and strong exports. But such generalisations mask significant differences between the cultures and local economies of the Nordic countries.
Norway’s economy revolves around the twin pillars of oil and fishing. The Swedish economy is characterised more by major multinational companies, while Finland has a highly industrialised economy. Denmark is typified by the service industry and IT firms alongside a strong farming sector. One thing they do all have in common, however, is some of the lowest property/casualty insurance rates in Europe.
Although brokers have come to play an increasingly important role in the Nordic insurance markets, they still hold a limited share of the overall market. Major broking firms continue to face resistance from indifferent buyers and sometimes openly hostile insurers, a handful of whom control around 80 percent of the market in each country. It is clear, however, that there are growing opportunities for broking firms in certain niche areas of the market.
It was one such opportunity that encouraged Lockton to establish a new operation in Oslo, with a view to focusing in the first instance on local professional and financial lines broking, risk management, and affinity business. With an initial team of nine Associates under practice leader Cato Aamodt, Lockton plans to expand into other Nordic countries in the future.
Nonmarine broking was virtually unknown in Norway prior to the early 1990s and has encountered some resistance from the established insurance community. In Norway, as in Denmark and Finland, commissions are banned. No such ban exists in Sweden, but brokers are held to rigorous standards of transparency and disclosure. The region is home to a large number of underwriting agencies, many of which will likely sell out to insurers once they are in a position to command the right sale price.
With exports booming, having bounced back quickly from the global economic downturn, Norway now has total non-life insurance premiums of around $6.8 billion in 2011 (up from $4.7 billion in 2009). Albeit within a limited number of niche areas, brokers’ roles in the market have now begun to expand significantly. Lockton has begun hiring recognised insurance talent in the region, with a view to building a long-term presence in Norway and the wider Nordic region.