On Power to the People

He might not be turning in his grave but Marx might enjoy the tussle between those that own and those that deploy the capital in our industry

He might not be turning in his grave but Marx might enjoy the tussle between those that own and those that deploy the capital in our industry

A little out of fashion of late but there is still much to be learned from a bit of Marxist analysis. As students of the great bearded one’s work will know, he saw human evolution as a massive class struggle between the small number of bourgeoisie who own the means of production and the rest of us who toil away to produce their goods and services. According to Marx, because we do not own the means of production we must enter an exploitative relationship with the capitalist in order to earn the necessities of life. We can choose which capitalist to work for of course but work we must, otherwise we starve. The illusory nature of this voluntary employment arrangement results in us all becoming alienated from humanity. Not many laughs with Marx.

So much for the theory: in practice the inherent tension in the owner and worker relationship has proven to be more reconcilable than Marx predicted and in reality much of what he foretold has not come to pass. Yet as events in the London insurance Market spectacularly demonstrated this week, the shifting battle for control between, in our industry, those that put up the capital and those that deploy it; the shareholders and their underwriters and brokers, has some surprising resonance with the worldview Marx presented all those years ago.

Especially in the London Market where small groups of individuals have significant influence over business flows, insurers and broking firms have taken increasingly strident steps in recent years to shore up the interests of their shareholders. They have been pinning down key employees to lengthy notice of termination periods, in some cases of up to twelve months, and preventing them to solicit for business post-departure by adding pages of restrictive covenants to their employment contracts. It has been one-way traffic mostly with only occasional pushback when the enforceability of the more punitive of these sorts of measures has been successfully challenged in court.

But the goings-on at Lloyd’s operation Hardy, acquired this year by US insurer CNA, as reported in the Insurance Insider might be seen by some to be a rare victory on the employee side. According to the Insider, in merging their two businesses, CNA complied with the so-called ‘TUPE’ labour regulations designed to protect staff transferring across companies. However, in the process the insurer unavoidably terminated the notice obligations of the Hardy employees, allowing a number of their key underwriters to quit and start unencumbered at a competing syndicate, literally the following working day.

The audacious exploitation of the TUPE ‘loop-hole’ by the Hardy defectors could be imitated by others in similar circumstances but maybe with less impact now that the element of surprise has been lost. Whether the play signals a wider trend towards greater freedom for underwriters and brokers to switch firms is nevertheless unlikely given the competitive state of the market and the determination of firms to protect their business at all costs. Those demanding ‘power to the people’ might therefore have to wait a little longer.

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3 Responses to On Power to the People

  1. As always an interesting comment on developments in the Market; TUPE is oft misunderstood by individuals in the M&A process. With the current business climate no doubt engendering further ‘defections’ of this type it is strongly advisable for individuals to obtain the best understanding of TUPE at the outset not during the process.

  2. Nick Jani says:

    This remark of mine is completely off the present discussion but very closely interrelated to the widening gap between the ones with plenty getting more and more so and the ones who have to struggle immensely just to meet the two end meet. Now the fundamentals of the economic growth is ideally based and found to be very fruitful when the employers could chnage the shoes and be more humanatarian to figure the pinch the workers have. Now real menace the world and all of us are facing and is uncontrollably moving to choke all of us is uncontrolled trading of comodities. In that segment as allowed and actually promoted class are the politicians, who blatantly are playing in the hands of these filthy rich folks who around the world can choke everyones’ jugular in the blink of a second. So no matter as to what the wokring class makes there is more they have to puke out to pay for their gas, electricity, housing, medicines, groceries and everyhting else which truly takes us all backwards.
    So realistically the underwirters and brokers truly did not gain a long term value for their experience as we all know that rolling stone does not gain any moth. On the other hand the employers CNA should have taken this FUPA in the law as an opportunity and a platform to beging a dialogue with employees that though they are well aware of the TOOPE loophole they welcome it as they want pariticipating employees who believe in them selves and their abilities to be their true partners than just shackled slaves to forced labor, that they will be rewarded to be a gainful profit sharers than just being forced producers.
    As we all know the world has always been marrauded by thugs, mugs and politicians and folks with riches and corrupt ways and means of amassing it. It is like that Beach Boys Song That say ” The Hustle IS THE NAME OF THE GAME WHERE NICE GUYS GET WAHSED AWAY LIKE SNOW IN THE RAIN.”These blatant disregard for common courtsies and good old common sense principles of not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs has cuased the gap to be widening almost to the extent of anarchies, thieveries, burgalires and day light roberries by all in control. Unless, we see through the anals of history, the so called exploitation by either class is not a resolution,and I am sorry to disagree with Marxist theory because either class while exploiting each other pay the price of their extraxted gain reflecting in high prices of insurance, manufactured good or commodities. So such exploitations, especially, does not necessarily reflect a gain for the working bees as the folks with the riches are laughing and collecting the added costs by raising their prices and trading fast and furiously to raise commodities, This is the real menace.
    Face it that the world is in crisis. Temp fixes aush as indiscriminate raise in minimum wage, as being pushed By US Prsident Mr. Obama for the 2nd or 3rd in this year, has not been making the difference as the time it happens, we the consumers can never compete with commodity hike.
    So, in short, if we do not make any attempts to nip this burgeoining Monster of commoditiy trading we are helping widening this gap which probably is very hard to control unless some drastic measures such Sir Winston Churchill had adapted during the world war. All commodites were price regulated and all essential servcies workers could not go on a strike and exploit the poor mass from having the essential services at an affordable price. We should stop worrying about insurance industry as you know if there is no money to buy the food and afford a roof overhead. We all know that people would care less and less of being insured even mandated by law. There are presently more and more uninsured motorists and gorwing in US, even though mandated by Law in most of the states. In short our illustiorus doers and rulers do not stop these massive gauging of common class by controlling the uncontrolled menace of regulating the prices ofesentials.
    I profusely apologize for steering you all away from what really did take place at Lloyd’s. It should not have happened and the restrictive covenants truly are a big misnomers and legally enforceable even after enormous battles. The way of winning your employees is to be participating in their problems and effectively helping to tackle by heart felt communications to have them to be contributors to the success of your overall venture. It is difficult and grossly impossible due unions and governmental interferences of massive statutes imposed upon industries. However, I believe, a real cut through the chase approach could and would bring positive resultants effect and a probable win win situations for both the sides. Take care y’all and have a nice day..

  3. Simon Hayes says:

    How not to manage a merger! One has to ask what did CNA buy now that many of the best people have gone, probably taking much of the business with them.

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