The shock departure of Chartered Insurance Institute director-general Professor David Bland last April, two years before his official contract was due to end, sparked talk of a coup at the top of the insurance profession.
Bland presided over the CII for ten years. Some insurance heavyweights thought his academic background was at risk of becoming outmoded in the increasingly commercial insurance market.
His successor could not be more of a contrast.
He is Dr Sandy Scott, a 44-year-old Scotsman, an ex-military man, cardiologist and former-deputy managing director of PPP Healthcare.
Perhaps due to the nature of his predecessor's departure and fearing his words may come back to haunt him, Scott favours caution and is non-committal about some of the most important questions facing the CII.
On the issue of increasing the CII's static membership roll above the current 66,000, he merely acknowledges it “needs to grow”. On offering “grandfather rights” to experienced brokers so they can attain chartered status more easily, he acknowledges this is a “hot topic” that he needs to “get under the skin of” in order to understand the way forward.
On the circumstances of his predecessor's departure, he wisely declines to comment, and instead pays tribute to the “solid foundations” that he has inherited from Bland.
Bland's drive for chartered insurance status for insurance brokers to replace statutory Insurance Brokers' Registration Council membership ruffled some members' feathers. He also made no secret of his opinion that less than one-third of brokers were likely to meet the stringent tests for chartered status.
Scott, however, with a good bedside manner, says he wants to consult the insurance industry about its ills before pronouncing a prognosis.
Asked about his immediate plans, Scott says: “I think it is too early to be specific. I will wait to hear the opinion of the people who matter including experienced members of the CII, its officers and the chief executives of major organisations, including the industry's regulators.”
His diplomacy may owe something to his other job as chief executive of Acxiom, a company that provides skilled marketing advice to blue-chip companies such as NatWest and Proctor & Gamble.
Before this appointment and another senior post at Ingram Micro, Scott was at PPP Healthcare where he rose from sales and medical directors to deputy managing director.
While at PPP, he was responsible for its strategy of diversifying from its core private medical insurance business into dental plans and long-term care products and its “vertical integration” into hospital ownership. Indeed, long-term care is one area where Scott offers a firm opinion. He says the Government's health policy has undergone a radical change in terms of co-operation with the private sector.
“There has been a realisation that public finance cannot meet all the costs of what the health service is being asked to provide. The government is now discussing entering into a partnership with private medical insurance (PMI) providers and that is an enormous sea-change in thinking.”
Prior to joining PPP, Scott pursued a successful career in the Royal Army Medical Corps and rose to the rank of major.
While serving with the Gordon Highlanders as an army doctor at Edinburgh Castle, Scott spent up to three months as official doctor to the Royal household at Balmoral Castle. After this came postings in Northern Ireland, Belize, the Falklands, Hong Kong and Germany – although Scott spent much of the time at the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital in Woolwich, London.
Scott said he found the transition from military life to the private sector relatively smooth, pointing out that most management techniques, such as strategic planning, were first developed by the military.
It is unclear which techniques Scott will adopt from his medical, Army and insurance careers to develop the CII. He officially steps into Bland's shoes on September 11, 2000.