Jason Wolfe asks why Matthew Fosh took on ailing SVB

A glance at the chart, below, showing SVB's share price tells you all you need to know about new chief executive Matthew Fosh.

He's clearly a brave man for taking on a company that has lost so much confidence in itself and among investors.

Since Fosh took the helm in November, much of his time has been spent doing the rounds of analysts and investors trying to reignite faith in the Lloyd's insurance group.

His message is simple.

"There's a stock market adage," he says, "that 90% of companies that lose 90% of their share price go bust 90% of the time.

"The due diligence I did before I came here convinced me the market had SVB wrong.

"Everything was telling me there was something wrong with the share price. SVB had dropped the proverbial ball, but here at its heart you have a tremendous group of individuals who had lost their way slightly."

Impressed with the quality of SVB's people and convinced that insurance was a good sector to be in, because of its counter-cyclical nature, Fosh made the jump from a background in finance where he had co-founded a derivatives business.

Recognising that he has to give certainty to investors, he is allowing himself three to six months to reassure them that SVB isn't facing any further reserving difficulties against past losses.

The company announced earlier this month that it needed to increase reserves for liability reinsurance risks on the 2000 year of account. During that year, out of the group's five syndicates only one, number 2147 which is 100% owned by SVB, is forecast to make a profit.

The group lost £88.3m after tax in 2001, or 46.4p a share.

So, if Fosh is to succeed in restoring credibility to the stock, he will have to convince investors that the team that "dropped the ball" isn't going to make the same mistake again.

In Fosh's account of where it all went wrong, SVB's previous management was so occupied with a period of rapid growth that "the control functions got overlooked".

He adds: "It's no longer being overlooked."

Fosh is now taking personal control of setting up a structure to prevent aggregation of losses.

A review of SVB's business mix is also underway and the company has pulled out of underwriting

US liability reinsurance, saying it can find the £50m of premium income generated from the class in 2002 elsewhere.

Overall, although Fosh says it could be up to six months before other changes are made, he says: "I'd be very surprised if there weren't any changes."

But there are no signs yet that Fosh is planning to radically change the focus of SVB's business in the way that Cox did earlier this year.

Cox, similarly to SVB, had run up huge losses before a change of strategy earlier this year began turning it into a motor insurer based on its Equity Red Star operation at Lloyd's.

But Fosh is not keen for similarities to be drawn between his mission at SVB and that of Cox.

"It's not a parallel I'd encourage you to make," he says.

And if the recent turbulence engulfing Cox, as a result of an aborted attempt at an MBO by Esure boss Peter Wood, is anything to go by, Fosh may be right to concentrate on fixing SVB's difficulties without taking notes from elsewhere.

He admits he is not yet in a position to raise capital, so rules out a "smash and grab raid" on the market next year while rates are high.

Instead, the philosophy is simple, sustainable recovery: "All I have is a belief in the quality of the people here and that when we've set the business on a solid footing again, we will have a story to tell."

He must just hope that the investors will still be listening.