Raid spells new era of London market tactics in retail

Gallagher is poised to swoop on up to a dozen Towergate Underwriting staff, potentially triggering a new era of London market-style mega-team raids in the UK retail market.

Commercial underwriting managing director Simon Read, homeowners managing director Scott Banks and up to 10 more staff are heading to Gallagher. They are expected to lead a UK e-commerce unit within Gallagher Underwriting – the managing general agency arm run by the highly rated Sian Fisher.

The raid on Towergate is seen by some as Gallagher chief David Ross’s attempt to install a London market philosophy in the retail market, where highly paid teams regularly move from broker to broker.

One source warned that Gallagher, which last month completed its £97m acquisition of Heath Lambert, could spark a counter-attack by Towergate or acquisition-hungry rivals. “It’s a dangerous game unless you come to an agreement with those you take the team from.”

Although the raid has caused concern at Towergate Underwriting – still on a high after securing Aviva’s Mark Hodges as its own chief executive – the staff exits are unlikely to cause much disruption. Insurance Times understands that the £600m premium MGA has succession plans in place for any departures.

Pat Gallagher, chief executive and chairman of the US parent, is said to be an admirer of the business model built by Towergate founder Peter Cullum. He wants Gallagher to be a serious rival to Towergate as a broker-owned MGA – though it remains to be seen what commission deals the powerful pairing of Heath and Gallagher will negotiate.

Gallagher Underwriting consists of Essex-based Woodbrook Underwriting, which writes around £50m of facultative and property for larger corporate business, and OIM, which underwrites the smaller end of SME. Heath Lambert will funnel business into Gallagher Underwriting.