Chief executive says pride in the business has created momentum, while chief distribution officer applauds its bond with brokers

Taking up the helm as chief executive of insurer Ageas UK in the midst of a global, unprecedented pandemic has been “an interesting, fascinating period”, says Ant Middle, who replaced previous Ageas boss Andy Watson last June.

Middle has been at Ageas UK for the past seven years. Just prior to taking on the leadership, he worked as the insurer’s chief customer officer – he has also headed up the retail business and been the managing director of partnerships during his tenure.

However, assuming the chief executive role while the UK was experiencing fluctuating lockdowns, a business interruption insurance crisis and an economic downturn due to the onset of the Covid-19 virus and resulting government mitigation measures surely couldn’t have been ideal.

Despite a myriad of uncertainties presented by the pandemic, Middle describes his experience to date as “a really enjoyable time”.

He continues: “When [asked] that question – what’s it like to take up a position like this in the midst of a pandemic – it definitely has had its challenges, but the wave of pride that there has been within the business in how we have been able to adapt, how our teams have been [able] to respond and support each other and customers, it’s actually fuelled an energy in the business that has been great to grasp and make sure that we continue the momentum from.

“That pride has perhaps been the overwhelming sense since I took on this job, which is really, really positive.”

Middle adds that Ageas UK has been focused on three main objectives throughout the pandemic so far.

He explains: “We’ve been managing the business through the pandemic, making sure that we’re adapting our operations, which we have done really effectively, and making sure we’re in a position to support our people, our customers and our partners and brokers. That’s been our first priority and I’m really pleased with the way we’ve responded to all of that.

“We’ve been trading through a really dynamic market that continues to be dynamic and keeps us on our toes, which is great.”

Strong relationships

Middle isn’t Ageas UK’s only recent new starter. In January this year, former Aviva propositions director Adam Beckett joined the team as chief distribution officer.

Noting that he has “always looked on with great warmth to Ageas from the outside competing with them”, Beckett says that over the past few months he has been struck by the business’s “agility and pace” as well as its “strength of relationships with our broker partners and our distribution partners”.

He explains: “There’s an agility and pace to this business, which is heartening, but the key thing I think would be the focus on customers, the ethics around [the] customer coming through the business is really strong. But, the strength of the relationships with our broker partners and our distribution partners more widely is very, very strong.

“We’ve got really clear, really strong relationships with those personal lines brokers and onwards into commercial. I’ve very much enjoyed it. The conversations are warm, our relationships are really strong.

“It’s a great business to be a part of, a business that matters in the market and also matters to the distribution partners and we’re only going to strengthen that with what we do strategy wise.”