New UK CEO likely to need to build relationships with brokers

Andy Watson, Ageas

Andy Watson’s appointment as Barry Smith’s replacement as Ageas UK chief executive was met with by surprise by insurance brokers, several of whom told Insurance Times they didn’t know him.

However, others have roundly welcomed Watson’s appointment.

Watson’s previous role was as head of UK retail, meaning his contact with rival brokers was minimal.

Ataraxia broking director Stuart Randall said he was unable to comment on the appointment of Watson, as did Jelf group chief executive Alex Alway, simply because they had had no dealings with Watson.

While Ageas said the Watson’s appointment was recognition of his internal success at the insurer since joining in 2010, his anonymity among brokers suggests he may have to hit the road in order to develop relationships with brokers and raise his profile. 

However, while Watson came from from a broking background, having previously run HSBC Insurance’s UK business, Watson has a variety of insurance and financial services experience. This could stand him in good stead for running Ageas UK, which comprises life and non-life underwriting as well as broking.

Watson’s 25-year financial services career includes stints at UKI Partnerships, Cooperative Financial Services and Direct Line.

Carole Nash chief executive David Newman said: “I worked with [Watson] at Co-op Financial Services and I think it is an excellent appointment. Barry Smith’s shoes are really big shoes to fill but I think Andy Watson is very capable of doing that.

“He’s one of those rare people who is a very personable actuary, so he is brilliant on the numbers and the business side and has sharp commercial acumen, but he is also genuinely a really good person with his people.”

Newman added: “Once brokers get to know him I think they will find it very easy to get on with him.”

Newman also welcomed the other changes, in particular the appointment of Groupama Insurances chief executive François-Xavier Boisseau as head of Ageas Insurance Limited. The other move is installing Ageas Insurance Limited managing director Mark Cliff as head of retail.

Newman said: “All four of those appointments are good appointments. I think it is one of the strongest teams in the industry quite frankly.”

Of departing Ageas UK CEO Barry Smith, Ataraxia’s Randall said: “Barry Smith has done a fantastic job with Ageas and I’m sure he will be particularly missed in the UK. He’s a top man.”

Bluefin chief executive Stuart Reid said: “Ageas is an extremely important partner for Bluefin and they continue to go from strength to strength. Barry has been a success at Ageas. Now we look forward to meeting the new management team as soon as possible.”