As Towergate’s chairman is honoured, we ask his peers how he has shaped the industry

Peter Cullum’s elevation to a CBE in the New Year’s honours list will come as little surprise to the insurance industry. Towergate chairman Cullum has been lauded for his contribution to charity and business – and though he’s a controversial figure in the market, few would dispute that that contribution has been huge on both counts.

Cullum has worked with many of the industry’s best known figures – he was famously employed by Robert Hiscox, who acquired his underwriting business Economic Insurance in 1997. But as Cullum told Insurance Times in a wide-ranging interview last year, a spell of being his own boss had made its mark. “I was probably unemployable by then,” he said. A year after the acquisition, he quit – and Towergate was born. The consolidator changed the face of the market, making plenty of friends and enemies along the way.

Following the defection of Amanda Blanc to AXA in December, Towergate faces a tough year as it looks to sell a stake to a private equity backer and prepare for a slated 2012 flotation. But what of Cullum the man? Insurance Times asked some leading figures what they thought of the maverick who has shaped the market – and here is what they said:

Biba chief executive Eric Galbraith: “I’m absolutely delighted and I think it’s well deserved that he’s got this recognition, not just for him but for the sector as well.

“Peter has made a huge contribution to the insurance market and he continues to be a huge influence through the Towergate Partnership. It’s not only his influence in the market in the sense of consolidation and being an entrepreneur, it’s the impact he has on firms’ attitudes to supporting the trade bodies, the professionalism and the CII, the support he has for Biba and the whole idea of supporting the sector in a big way.

“Peter and Towergate have very substantial input into charitable work as well, and I think that is all part of an ethos within the Towergate family in the way that they do business. This is putting a lot back into the sector as well. I don’t think all of that is realised behind the scenes, but it’s a really important element to our sector.”

Non-executive chairman of Perkins Slade David Slade said: “”He has been very entrepreneurial. He has moved where others have sat and thought about it and he has got on with it. I think he has done very well for himself. I don’t think he adds much to the market as a whole but as an operator I admire him immensely.

“I can’t think it is being given for his services to the insurance industry. It must be that he has major charitable interests.”

Equity chairman Neil Utley: “I am thrilled for him and it’s absolutely well deserved. If you look at the most of the key jobs in insurance, they are roles which have been there historically for some time such as head of RSA and head of Aviva. Peter has created a business for himself that employs thousands of people, that is generally making a difference and it is all self-created. It’s a fantastic achievement.”

Chief executive of Bluefin Stuart Reid said: “Peter is a guy who has made a real difference in our industry. He is someone who I have huge respect for both for his work in the insurance industry and within the charity field at large. It’s rare that anyone in the insurance industry manage to get their head above the parapet outside of insurance and it can only be good for him personally and the industry at large.”

Aspen Insurance managing director Kevin Pallett said: “Well deserved. He’s put a huge amount of work into training, development and charity so with that, alongside business, good luck to him.

“Peter’s biggest contribution to the industry is that Towergate has completely changed the model in terms of the way broking and underwriting operations work. He extended the role and services that a broker provides. You can argue whether that is good or bad but he certainly started it. Until he introduced the underwriting agency concept - combining with a broker and taking on more underwriting services on behalf of the insurer - that didn’t really happen.”