The arrival of Aviva’s former chief distribution officer Phil Bayles at Ardonagh Advisory is the latest in a line of senior insurance figures that have moved from carrier to broker

While there have been some significant market figures that have made the move from carrier to intermediary in the past, the numbers of senior professionals following this trajectory has picked up in recent months.

Mark Cliff, Brendan McManus, Janice Deakin and Adrian Brown are all well known names to have made the switch with notable success. Furthermore, last month saw ex-RSA and Travelers operations chief Aaron Devitt join up with Phil Barton and Stuart Reid at broker Partners&.

This trend has left many in the market seeking to understand what the attraction was to successfully lure underwriting leaders to move to the other side of the transaction.

When Aviva’s former chief distribution officer Phil Bayles announced his new role at Ardonagh Advisory in April, he described the broker as his “natural home” - he believed his new role would enable him to continue to support regional brokers within the growing Ardonagh group portfolio.

For some, Bayles’s new responsibilities at Ardonagh point to the issues that are at the core of this kind of career switch. He will lead the group’s placement and strategic growth initiatives, including M&A.

One industry insider told Insurance Times that for some, the attraction is simply down to the opportunity for growth and to build new business at a time when insurers are looking to retrench as the impact of Covid-19 has seen underwriters withdraw from risk classes.

“The bigger brokers are eyeing the opportunities that Covid will create as businesses move to a new way of working and the implementation of technology will reduce frictional costs and, in all likelihood, change the way brokers operate and the services they provide,” the expert said.

“With M&A comes the need for rapid integration to deliver the benefits of scale and brokers will be looking for senior management that understands how bigger organisations work, not to mention having strong contacts in insurance boardrooms.”

Specific skill set

Andy Edwards, director, insurance at specialist insurance recruitment consultancy Arthur, said the move to attract insurance figures into the broking sector had gathered pace in recent months and shows little sign of stopping.

“Since the fourth quarter of last year, we have seen a rise in the seniority of the posts we are being asked to fill. While the number of roles has not significantly increased, the positions that are being filled are senior and business critical,” he explained.

Edwards added that many major brokers may have previously been quiet in terms of recruitment due to the sector having undergone a rapid round of M&A in the past.

However, senior management have now met their earn-out obligations and the brokers are cash rich. They are also acutely aware of the changes that are happing within the industry.

“The focus for many in the market is now on the UK and Europe, where they see the potential for real growth. As such they are looking for senior figures that have an extensive book of contacts coupled with the experience of driving scale,” Edwards continued.

“UK insurers are set up to drive the efficient sale of large numbers of policies using a wide range of distribution channels, including technology.

“Brokers understand that with the market looking to use placement platforms to handle non-complex risks there is the opportunity to access new lines of business and are looking for those [that] have experience of rapidly creating volume business.”

Changing role of the broker

He added: “The larger brokers have the ability to compete in terms of salary for the people they want to attract. There is also a belief that the role of the broker needs to change with the assumption of roles that have traditionally been in the remit of the underwriter.

“Factor in the number of senior managers currently within the broking sector with such skills and it is understandable they are increasingly turning to the insurers to target those that have built an understanding of and strong relationships within the regional broker market.”

There is also another attraction for senior management who are at the point in their careers where they want a greater say in the business in which they are employed - brokers can often provide the opportunity to adopt a more entrepreneurial approach.

Whatever the reason, many underwriters will be looking nervously at their management teams as brokers continue to look towards new deals, new classes and new roles in the post-pandemic new normal.