Robert Hiscox is not a man who minces his words – although there have been times when they have come back to plague him.

In particular when he quoted Eli Wallach who played the bandit in The Magnificent Seven, his favourite film, explaining why you cannot prevent Lloyd's Names from losing money: 'If God had not wanted them to be shorn, he would not have made them sheep'.

"It has been dreadfully quoted out of context," he explains. "A friend of mine suggested that Lloyd's syndicates could be listed in league tables so that Names could easily identify the wheat from the chaff.

"I was merely explaining why this was impossible and quoted from my favourite film."

Surprisingly, Robert Hiscox made the sheep comment in 1981, long before thousands of Names lost their shirts when Lloyd's nearly collapsed in the early 90s.

Indeed, he has made reform of the 300-year-old market as much a career as insurance. The two have gone hand-in hand.

He was part of the team which created the Reconstruction and Renewal plan in 1996, which both saved and restructured the whole market.

"One idea, my paper on changing the distribution channel, was buried for five years so that Lloyd's brokers would agree to pay £100 million to the £3bn R&R – it is only happening now," he says.

But R&R was only part of creating a modern and more efficient Lloyd's.

Now that the market is suffering a new bout of heavy losses, he can see an opportunity to finish the job.

Hiscox is a name synonymous with Lloyd's. His father Ralph started a syndicate in the 1930s and became chairman of Lloyd's.

Robert Hiscox has been deputy chairman of Lloyd's and is the chairman of the £500m group Hiscox Plc, which includes the Hiscox Syndicate 33 and the Hiscox Insurance Company. But it was only when he was appointed to David Roland's task force to bail out the early 90s mess, that he saw the full extent of the disaster.

"We saw the full structural defects of Lloyd's and we saw the losses coming," he says.

"It was, without question, the most uncomfortable time of my career because I could see it ending.

"Everyone saw the inability to raise capital from Names – individuals with unlimited liability."

"And we did not actually find a solution."

"It was found by an underwriter, Brian Kellett, who queried whether corporate capital was possible under the Lloyd's Act."

Hiscox, though, first called for corporate capital in the 70s, and he cannot hide his delight that so much has flowed in so far.

But corporate capital is only one piece of a jigsaw of reforms for which Hiscox has been campaigning.

Although few Names would agree, the early 90s was a blessing in disguise for the market because it hastened much needed changes.

Lloyd's is barely mentioned in the press without the words "anachronistic", "bureaucratic" and "costly" appearing somewhere.

And several articles have gone so far as to predict the demise of the market within five years.

Two months ago, the Daily Telegraph sparked a new round of speculation after it wrote that Lloyd's was about to be demutualised (it actually meant that services of Lloyd's were to be privatised.)

The Economist quickly followed with an article suggesting much the same.

Meanwhile, the rating agency Moody's forecasts that 60% of syndicates will make a loss in 1999 and Chatset is warning that corporate capital could take fright.

For Hiscox, the solution is threefold.

Firstly, privatise the Corporation of Lloyd's and make it more efficient.

Secondly, protect both the investors and the worldwide licences by making Lloyd's a centre for the elite.

And thirdly, and most importantly, get rid of unlimited liability Names and transform them into shareholders.

"If you have names you need lots of protection – lots of monitoring," he says.

"The minute you go to corporate capital, in which case you have stock exchange regulation and rules, and you just have money people risking money, not their whole personal lives.

"Then regulation could be the same as for a insurance company which is infinitely simpler and cheaper."

But corporate venture capital has more financial nous than Names.

Lloyd's is a mutual, underpinned by a central fund and the guarantee that you pay your neighbour's losses if they fold.

For Hiscox, it is ludicrous for those who practise in the market to allow small and shoddy underwriters to set up stall next door.

"It has been my year's crusade to get barriers to entry up, " he says.

"There have been too many inadequate underwriters who have lost money in the past.

"We have had to pay millions through R&R for other people's losses."

While Hiscox stresses quality is more important than size, it clearly irks him that so many of these new entrants are small players that bring little business with them.

"The market has already got too much capacity and all insurance business is already placed," he says.

"We give them access to the Lloyd's franchise, the world licenses and 300 years of goodwill, and invite them to pinch our business."

Indeed, Lloyd's regulators is already demanding better management of the 139 syndicates left.

A third of the £3bn capital is currently under regulatory strictures.

Hiscox contends that with "grown up" companies, with proper management, Lloyd's chief executive Prettejohn can pare down the Corporation and privatise it.

"Lloyd's has to stop acting like a nanny to these firms," he says.

"Half the businesses at Lloyd's are not running properly.

"There are some things that have to be done centrally, such as settlement of premiums and claims, but there is too much duplication.

Prettejohn wins high praise for doing what no chief executive has done for 50 years. The records show that the number of Lloyd's syndicates is at an all time low but the corporation still had the same number of staff as 40 years ago, roughly 2000 – when Nick Prettejohn took over. He has quickly reduced the head count.

As for the future, Hiscox is quick to dismiss rumours that Lloyd's is on its last legs.

"Lloyd's is a very resilient brand with world licences. The fact is more capital wants to get into the market than out."