With several hundred syndicates, managing agents, service companies, brokers and integrated vehicles, it comes as little shock that Lloyd's is full of surprises. One such firm is the Miller Insurance Group, to some a sleepy little specialist marine broker, to others a huge firm just below the handful in the premier league. The former is a misconception Miller is determined to put right.
In May, Graham Clarke took the helm as chief executive. He wants the world to know that Miller is different – different to expectations and different to the rest of the market. “We did a survey and found that people thought we ranged from being a small marine broker with six people to a mega-broker with 6,000 employees,” says Clarke. He feels those surveyed deserve an explanation. “In 1992 we were very heavily marine-led. We had 75% of our business in the marine market, including the US and reinsurance, and just 25% in non-marine,” says Clarke. The firm has since expanded into new niche markets, such as financial institutions, accident and health, intellectual property and alternative risk transfer. “The balance has just gone in favour of non-marine,” he says.
The figures are somewhere in between the extremes. Annual premium income is about $1bn (£700m) and the firm employs not eight or 6,000 but 600 employees. Last year the group restructured, bringing what were effectively six different brokerages under a single management structure. It is now making a significant further investment in technology, using the Twin 2000 system pioneered by Sedgwick and Benfield Greig.
Moving with the times
And it has some very modern clients. In its accident and health book, Miller is the official broker for the Rugby League Players Association and is the official broker to Speedsure, the worldwide speedway personal accident scheme. It claims to be one of the top three brokers in the US sports markets and to insure 60% of the Dutch football market. In the energy market, Clarke's traditional stamping ground, Miller claims 30% of the world's rig fleets and is broker to eight of the worlds state-owned oil companies. Its professional risks business insures 35% of the FT-quoted pharmaceutical companies (biotechnology and clinical trials are specialities) and is the approved broker to the Computer Software Services Association, the Telecoms Industry Association and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. It recently launched a specialist website dealing with intellectual property rights.
Playing with the big boys
In the US, Miller claims to be London's largest producer of US Binding Authority premiums, with its US unit catering for Canada too and offering professional, personal and commercial lines. And its international work also covers special risks such as political risks and trade credit as well as trade disruption and policies aimed at defending against hostile takeovers. It has an exclusive arrangement with the UK government's Export Credit Guarantee Department to provide customers with recourse indemnity cover.
But it hasn't forgotten it marine traditions either. Miller claims to reinsure 90% of the world's shipping for liability risks and to be broker to eight of the ten largest shipping owners in the world. It also reckons it introduces the biggest slice of marine war risk premium to the London market and to be reinsurance broker to the bulk of Lloyd's marine syndicates. And it claims to be the largest provider of French jeweller's block to the London market.
Keeping with tradition
And Miller remains traditional in many other ways. It is still a partnership rather than a listed company and its structure includes an employee trust so that all staff benefit in the event of a hostile takeover – and it would have to be hostile, Miller insists. It has grown organically and says it will continue to do just that. It recruits experts from the market. Recent additions include intellectual property rights' expert Ian Lewis from Crawley Warren, Harry Bennett from Swire Blanch and David Wicks, construction and liablity specialist, from Aon. “We're picking up people who are the best in the field,” says Miller deputy chairman Iain Webb-Wilson. “Good people working for large companies get dissatisfied and stifled and want to do something themselves but need the backing of someone like us.” And their reputation alone often brings customers with them.
Miller is active in many areas of officialdom. Webb-Wilson is a member of the Lloyd's Insurance Brokers marine committee, as is Miller hull and war chief Nick Spratt. The head of Miller's reinsurance group, James Geffen sits on the Lloyd's Insurance Brokers reinsurance committee.
But Millers believes it is unique and is not always best served by bodies trying to find consensus among disparate groups. It promises to begin speaking out on issues on its own. “We're the largest independent broker in London and the trade associations are often not representative of our views,” says Clarke. When Miller speaks, it will be worth a listen.