‘Tin-eared’ RSA insurance chief criticised after praising Britain’s flood defences
The boss of RSA Insurance insisted Britain’s flood defences had ‘done a better job than in prior years’ – despite the devastating storms leaving thousands of homes underwater.
Stephen Hester, who formerly ran Royal Bank of Scotland following its near-collapse during the financial crisis, said RSA had received ‘several thousand’ claims after Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara.
And although he admitted that the payouts might squeeze RSA’s UK performance in the first quarter of 2020, they would not have a meaningful impact on the full-year results.
Stephen Hester, who formerly ran RBS following its near-collapse during the financial crisis, said RSA had received ‘several thousand’ claims after Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara
Hester praised Britain’s flood defences, saying that the damage to homes and businesses appeared to be less severe than after previous big storms in 2015 and 2007.
But critics branded him ‘tin-eared’ as water levels continued to rise in parts of Yorkshire and Shropshire, and other towns in England and Wales remain deluged by floods.
Neil Wilson, an analyst at Markets, said: ‘The fact the defences are better does nothing for those who’ve been flooded and who just want their insurer to be sympathetic.
‘His bedside manner could be improved, but ultimately people just want their insurer to stump up. As long as they do, they won’t mind if the chief executive is tin-eared.’
During Hester’s time at RBS, while the bank was losing billions of pounds, he tried to negotiate a bonus from his luxury lodge in Switzerland.
And days before his appointment at RBS, with the country plunged into austerity by the financial crisis, he arrived at 11 Downing Street from his estate in knee-high socks and a tweed shooting jacket.
His six years at RSA have so far attracted less controversy.
The insurer, which owns the More Than brand, said profit before tax was up 3 per cent in 2019 to £492million.
It announced a full-year dividend of 23.1p per share, up 10 per cent. Shares ended the day up 0.6 per cent, or 3p, at 533.6p.