Mike Knight, the ATE sales manager at ARAG, has said that Elite Insurance’s decision to stop writing new business will bring new uncertainty to the legal expenses insurance market.
Elite is a sizeable business with multiple offices in several countries and an insurance offering that stretches well beyond its ATE and BTE legal expenses policies. On 5 July it announced that it had ceased writing new business with immediate effect. All policies issued up to 5 July are to remain in force and policyholders will not be affected.
Writing on a blog for ARAG, Knight said that the high profile exit would bring further uncertainty to a market that has faced more than its share of challenges in recent years.
“It is impossible to say to what extent the challenging ATE market has contributed to the company being forced to make this decision,” wrote Knight.
“Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine that the combination of LASPO, increased regulation and even successive insurance premium tax hikes, haven’t played some part, not to mention the uncertainty surrounding EEA passporting rules – under which Gibraltar-domiciled Elite has operated in the UK – as a consequence of Brexit.”
He said that solicitors would understandably be nervous in the wake of such a high profile departure, and that many would be wondering “what next?”.
“That, of course, is impossible to predict, but all lawyers offering ATE cover should satisfy themselves that they are at least minimising any risk to their client, and ultimately to their own firm.
“That means knowing not just the company they are dealing with but also asking questions about the ultimate underwriter of the policy.”
Knight pointed out that while based and regulated in Gibraltar, Elite had “at least” stood the test of time and was more transparent than many of its competitors.
“Last December, the company even went so far as to secure an independent assessment of its financial strength, from a respected ratings agency. The security behind that ‘BBB’ rating may not have averted this outcome, but it should give partners some confidence that Elite’s promise to meet its obligations to policyholders and creditors should be fulfilled.
“Whenever and however the next ATE provider exits the market, the solicitors and their clients may not be so lucky,” he added.