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> Peter Grima's Inauguration Speech  
  FirstUnited Official Inauguration – Friday 21 April 2006 - The Westin Dragonara Hotel 

FirstUnited Insurance Brokers Ltd - 25 years since the Insurance Business Act 1981

Good Afternoon,

Mr. Prime Minister, Honourable Members, valued clients, Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues, friends.

Thank you for accepting our invitation to join  us in celebrating  our merger. Allow me the liberty to briefly consider the beginnings of our insurance market and how, over the last 25 years,  we have collectively built  the systems and structures and individually found the  resources and skills  to thrive in a  liberalised market.

The seeds of our insurance market were sown when the IBA 1981 was passed by Parliament and became law. That early potential  has since been managed astutely and strengthened   with Malta’s entry into the EU. The  wisdom of all party support has helped achieved  many  financial services milestones whilst  the resolve of market operators and their investments  confirm that:

  1. this is a dynamic market, well regulated and a real  catalyst for growth
  2. our  system works and can evolve, develop and  anticipate opportunity ; and
  3. our business models can offer service to world markets and can with the right care be transplanted to take root outside Malta

The  inherent strengths and resilience of  our market and of the insurers, intermediaries,  insurance clients and regulators that build and develop it are deeply rooted in our belief in liberal free market principles designed to protect the needs of our clients to exercise their rights to  free choice. 

Today, all of us at FirstUnited  applaud   you  our guests  for exercising free  choice.  Without your individual  decisions and your assessment of the value of our various insurance broking and claims advocacy  services our  dreams and vision  as well as our insurance market would be substantially  weaker.

Should we, for whatever reasons, weaken these rights of free choice, we place at peril 25 years of investment that today provide all operators in Malta as well as  FirstUnited with the opportunity to pilot  into an  exciting future. Strike at this core principle and this vibrant liberal market will falter, flounder or fail.    So with this in mind what other  lessons and principles  have we learnt over the last 25 years?

1. Good Regulation - Good regulation is costly yet it produces value in the form of a prudent, professional, liberal yet disciplined market. Its value  has been shown in the un-assisted yet massive re-structuring of the local insurance market carried out over the last five years. Today this investment in good regulation  leaves us  poised to develop our  international potential;

2. Free Choice – One major facet of Free Choice is  the balance introduced by a strong Property/Casualty broking sector.  Strong insurance suppliers are pitted against flexible insurance  intermediaries  providing free choice and an equitable balance in most classes of insurance and market niches.  This intelligent and liberal approach  provides additional protection against  dominance;

3. Diversity - A relatively small domestic Property/Casualty market long supplemented by access to Lloyd’s  has been strengthened by hundreds of new insurers following the introduction of the Freedom of Services Directive. Through Freedom of Services Malta domiciled operators also gain access to the whole EU insurance market a  key factor in our ability to attract and develop cross border international services;

4. Dominance –  Both the P&C and the Life Assurance  markets  operate under the same core rules and regulations. However the disproportionate strength and dominance  of the two large banks has left  little if any room for players from the  Property/Casualty market to develop a life assurance operation, with one significant exception. This  although there is a  near 100% client base overlap between the banking and insurance market players.

So what of Our Plans at FirstUnited?

Our insurance broking and captive insurance management  business will be the platform for us to venture overseas in search of new profitable business ventures with all the risks this entails. Of these risks local market dominance alone has the potential to  seriously disrupt our plans and jeopardize our venture.

This dominance is we think  unique to Malta and  is quite simply regulatory risk. We and the market can only  assess or measure this risk. Although we can carefully consider  the facts  and to how many decimal places,  we pilot always into unknown futures. Facts are our single clues.  Many years of navigation through the shoals and reefs of  market and regulatory risks give us confidence in our bearings. Yet the need for vigilance remains.  As does our resolve and vision and our expectations of support in our endeavors to promote “Finance Malta”  outside our shores exploiting  the  opportunities that unfold before us.

Never underestimate the determination of local operators to succeed in the wider EU and international markets and some honest counsel to our Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, if I may. Support these endeavors fully they will reap benefit to operators and country.

Thank you for patiently listening to me and I would now introduce our Chairman Mr. Salv Mifsud Bonnici.

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