Regulators cannot fathom how to accommodate syndicates The world's oldest insurance provider wants to expand its business in Asia but its archaic structure is proving a hindrance in the region's most promising market. Asia at present represents just 8 per cent of worldwide premium income at Lloyd's of London, according to chairman Lord Peter Levene, who hopes that will increase to 16 per cent in coming years. 'This is not too ambitious,' he said. 'When you think about the strong economic growth in Asia, it is reasonable to believe that Lloyd's market can also achieve significant growth in the region.' Established in 1688 by a group of risk-averse London shipping merchants who frequented Edward Lloyd's coffee shop, Lloyd's is technically a syndicate rather than an insurance company - and as such is something of a quandary for regulators in China, the region's fastest growing market. After 316 years, Lloyd's still operates under a syndicate structure. It is not a company but a market for a group of individuals and corporations providing insurance cover through 66 separate underwriting syndicates. This unique structure allows Lloyd's to be more flexible in providing coverage for assets too large or specialised for normal insurance companies, such as the Olympic Games or a singer's voice. But it also means Lloyd's cannot operate under China's existing insurance law, which recognises only insurance companies. China must amend its insurance law before Lloyd's can operate there. Lord Levene started negotiating with the China Insurance Regulatory Commission last year on changes to the law but there has been little progress to date. 'We are still negotiating,' he said. 'We are confident we will get approval one day.' Until then, Lloyd's will concentrate on expanding its existing operations in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.