Brokers welcome RSA’s new ‘personable’ and ‘disciplined’ UK chief executive

Steve Lewis’ appointment as RSA UK and Western Europe chief executive will bring structure and underwriting discipline to the insurer - but brokers have said he needs to be clear on the markets RSA wants to operate in and do more to strengthen its trading relationships.

Insurance Times revealed yesterday that Zurich UK GI boss Lewis was leaving after 25 years. Lewis will join on 1 January and replaces Adrian Brown who is leaving RSA in August to become executive chairman of Arthur J Gallagher’s underwriting and distribution division.

The Lewis quality

A “personable character” and trained accountant, brokers said Lewis would bring a structured and disciplined underwriting ethos and counted his mid-market to large corporate and international experience as an advantage for RSA.

James Hallam managing director Paul Anscombe said: “RSA are strong in the large corporate and SME business, but where they have missed out on is the mid-market business which many of the independent brokers have a lot of .”

Clear strategy needed

According to Jelf group chief executive Alex Alway, one of Lewis’ first challenges will be to define the insurer’s appetite and its preferred markets.

RSA has raised almost £1.5bn through a rights issue, scrapping its divident and selling divisions outside its four “core” areas.

“They have always been capital restrained - the big challenge now is how they spend their money,” Alway added.

Brokerbility chair Ashwin Mistry said: “[What we want to know is] how will Lewis re-establish RSA as a longer-term player and reintegrate with the broker. The economy is feeling good so let’s talk about redefined propositions.”

RK Harrison Insurance Services managing director Stuart Rootham added: “They have to be sure of what their strategy is to brokers and back that up with a strong performance.”

Stronger trading relationships

Over the past 12 months RSA has opened up a number of trading centres, but brokers said it still had more work to do, particularly in the regions.

Brightside Group chief executive Paul Williams said: “Steve has work to do. RSA is a business that needs reinventing but he has good broker support behind him.

“Brokers have a natural affinity to RSA but most of it is historical. Having that kind of ambition to trade with brokers and write business has not been prevalent in the last few years. There are very good technical underwriters in RSA but we need to see a better focus on trading.”

Brokers said they were confident that Zurich would remain stable under the interim leadership of commercial broker managing director Dave Smith, and in the longer term because of its tendency to promote from within.