Confidence levels amongst Ireland’s insurance companies and SMEs are rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to separate business surveys.

A joint survey of insurers, by PwC and Insurance Ireland, found that confidence has rebounded with most firms having significant plans to invest and more than half intent on increasing their staff numbers.

As much as 85% of insurers surveyed said they are confident about their growth prospects, up from 71% last year. Nearly 70% said their employees will work remotely for at least 2-3 days a week after the crisis passes.

“As an industry, remaining competitive is critical. The survey highlights significant investment in digital transformation and workforce strategies that will bring efficiencies in a world where consumer purchasing habits are rapidly changing,” said PwC Ireland’s John O’Leary. 

“Greater leveraging of technologies is an area of real opportunity for the insurance industry and, with significant investment in digital transformation underway, it looks like this will become a reality,” he said.

“The survey confirms that Ireland’s insurance industry is committed to a strong recovery and growth agenda,” said Insurance Ireland CEO Moyagh Murdock.

She added: “Having adapted well to the Covid-19 disruption, the industry is confident about the future. Nonetheless, we are dependent on a regulatory environment which facilitates competition in the Irish market, as well as Ireland’s competitiveness at European and global level.” 

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said there is a need for the insurance industry to work collaboratively with government to progress the reform agenda.

Meanwhile, alternative lender Linked Finance has said optimism in the SME sector has made “a strong recovery to pre-pandemic levels” based on its own survey.

It said 65% of SMEs are reporting profits the same or better than a year ago, compared to 30% in the second quarter of last year. More than three quarters expect trading activity to stabilise or improve in the short-term, while job creation expectations are now in net positive territory.

“We are, however, still seeing pockets of the economy that are slower to rebound, and it’s clear that the pace of recovery is lagging for domestic market focused micro-businesses,” warned Linked Finance CEO Niall O’Grady.

Optimism levels amongst Irish food and agribusiness SMEs, meanwhile, has reached a 4-year high with 77% confident about their outlook. 

However, increased energy and raw materials costs and recruitment difficulties are affecting two-thirds of firms, according to agribusiness accountancy firm iFac, while a huge majority of agri SMEs have no strategic plan in place nor a succession plan.

Article Source: Irish Examiner