The insurance industry is government-supervised, and insurers must be authorized to do business. Automobile insurance was made compulsory in 1971, and coverage is also required for aircraft, powerboats, hunters, auditors and yachts. Among the most important nonlife insurance companies in Italy as of 2002 were Ras, Generali, Sai, and Assitalia; leading life insurance companies as of 2002 included Alleanza, Creitras, Generali, and Roma. Total life insurance premiums written in 2001 equaled US $68.988 billion compared to US $35.7 billion in 1992. Of the 2001 total, life insurance premiums comprised US $41.481 billion, and nonlife insurance premiums comprised US $27.506 billion.
The insurance regulatory body is the Instituto per Viglanza sulle Assicurazioni Private di Interesse Collettivo (ISVAP-the Institute for Control of Private Insurance Companies). European Union reporting and other insurance directives are being implemented. A unique and helpful feature of Italian insurance company reports is the inclusion of financial statements of major subsidiary or affiliated companies.
The Italian insurance market was traditionally characterized by a relatively large number of insurers with no one organization dominating the industry, although there were some very large, old insurance organizations which date back to the early 19th century. There are a number of foreign insurance companies operating through subsidiaries in Italy: these are primarily French and German companies. Italy's market indicates moderately low penetration when compared to North America and Northern Europe, especially for life products. In recent years, the volume of life products has increased quite rapidly as the consumer has become aware that the Italian Social Security System benefits will have to be supplemented by individual savings and as insurance awareness has increased through advertising campaigns and the distribution of insurance products through the extensive branch banking system of the country. Foreign influence and industry consolidation in the Italian insurance industry is expected to rise due to the adoption of the euro and the emerging willingness of Italian companies to mount hostile takeover bids. Much of the new merger-mania expected to sweep Italian insurance is projected to come from the banking sector as banks continue to expand their interests in insurance sales.