Former manager claims selection process for redundancy was unfair and job loss ‘not justified’

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Stuart Reid, Venture Preference’s chief executive, is due to appear before an employment tribunal next week over a claim brought by a former manager at the broker.

Adrian Donno, who was marine manager at Layton Blackham, owned by Venture Preference, is claiming unfair dismissal after he was made redundant last May. He claims the selection process for redundancy was unfair and that redundancy was not justified in any case.

The tribunal hearing comes as Venture Preference is rebranded as Bluefin. The company, owned by AXA, denies the allegations.

Other senior executives are expected to give evidence at the hearing in central London, including Graham Coates, Venture Preference’s group operations director; Shaun Hooper, the company’s chief operating officer; and Kevin Hancock, group managing director of Davies Group, which is owned by Venture Preference.

Layton Blackham and rival London broker Stuart Alexander were Venture Preference’s first broker acquisitions, made in January 2007.

Since then the AXA-owned broker has made more than 10 acquisitions, including Smart & Cook and SBJ, and controls gross written premium of £700m.

Last year Venture Preference management began integrating the acquired businesses.

Reid declined to comment on Donno’s case. He said there had been a small number of redundancies as a result of the integration, many of which were voluntary.

He added: “Last year was information gathering. 2009 is about implementing the plans we have in place.”

Venture Preference’s acquisition drive has slowed in recent months as the senior management concentrated on integration. The last purchase, made in November, was Newspace Insurance Services, based in Northampton, which specialises in the SME sector.

The company has indicated that it will kickstart its acquisition programme in 2009 as it looks to hit is target of £1bn in annual gross written premium.

The rebrand to Bluefin means AXA’s other financial services intermediary businesses will also move to the name. This includes the Thinc Group companies, PIFC and SBJ Benefit Consultants.

Reid becomes chief executive of Bluefin Insurance Group and John Simmonds becomes chief executive of Bluefin Advisory Services.