’We want RSA to more than the sum of its parts and, with no personal lines distraction, the focus is clear,’ says new commercial lines managing director

When RSA announced its acquisition of Direct Line Group’s (DLG) commercial lines operations last year (6 September 2023), it noted that the move would make it the UK’s third largest commercial lines insurer. 

And now that the deal has completed, RSA’s new commercial lines managing director Sonya Bryson says that the firm is aiming to become “the best commercial lines insurer in the market” by the end of 2025. 

Bryson’s new role came into effect last week on 1 May and saw her move from her previous position as commercial managing director at DLG and managing director at NIG. 

In her new role, Bryson will bring her vital experience of managing the NIG brand at DLG to the challenge of integrating the acquired business into RSA’s stable. 

Her official appointment as RSA’s new commercial lines leader marks a milestone in this integration, with the difficult work of blending the best of both businesses beginning with a unified leadership team

Bryson’s experience in commercial lines insurance stands her in good stead for this task, however, having left school at 16 to become a filing clerk and not looking back since. 

She tells Insurance Times that she has “always been in insurance, always been in commercial lines and always been in broker business.” 

North Star 

When Bryson found out that RSA had agreed to purchase DLG’s commercial lines brands, the initial reaction was one of surprise.

However, she says that her emotions quickly turned to excitement at the opportunities the new parent would provide. 

She explains: ”When you reflect on it, being part of a personal lines parent [at DLG] was always a really tough gig, especially a personal lines parent that was experiencing some difficulty and had laser focus on the motor book.

“So the initial disappointment [at finding out about the acquisition] faded quite quickly and I appreciated the opportunity to be part of a much bigger organisation that really understands commercial insurance, which was really appealing.” 

And now that Bryson is responsible for the success of RSA’s commercial lines operations – an even more important role since the insurer recently completed the sale of its personal lines business to Admiral – she says that the “North Star” of becoming the country’s best commercial lines insurer will be supported by the combination of her previous firm with RSA’s product breadth and expertise.

“There’s so much complementary benefit for bringing these two companies together – it’s a perfect match and a bit of a no-brainer,” she adds.

The right ingredients

Successful integrations can be difficult, especially when bringing together businesses at this scale.

With that difficulty can also come a change in focus as internal integration processes and procedures are prioritised, but Bryson says she is clear on the need for RSA to “keep providing a continuity of service and trading momentum, which is what brokers are looking for”. 

“That’s high on the agenda,” she says. ”Colleagues are experiencing change, a new organisation, culture and ways of working, so there is a risk that we become internally focused. 

“That’s why we’re very much alive to the fact that we need to keep listening to brokers.” 

With this focus on providing continuity throughout the transition, Bryson says that all the ingredients are there for RSA to make the integration a success.

She explains: ”It’s like I’m on Bake Off and I’ve got the best quality ingredients I could possibly want to create this masterful cake.

”When I look across the strengths of both businesses – the underwriting appetite, the product breadth, the tooling, capabilities, pricing sophistication and the richness of the talent pool – I’ve got all these ingredients.

“The challenge is to put them together in the right portions to take home the crown and not have a soggy bottom.” 

Focus areas 

In terms of what she is focused on to ensure that the integration is a success, Bryson says the “single biggest thing is ‘don’t mess it up’”. 

And while she admits that a process as complicated as a merger may see “some slips and trips”, she is confident that a focus on broker service, claims and product breadth will see the best shine through. 

She explains: ”The acquisition accelerated our ambition to become the best commercial lines insurer, but ultimately brokers will decide that. 

“We can say that we’re the best, but brokers will decide whether we’re deserving of that accolade and, once we’re there, whether we stay there.

“The proof point will be that if we put one and one together and it equals two, then we haven’t quite delivered. We want RSA to more than the sum of its parts and, with no personal lines distraction, the focus is clear.” 

In terms of logistics, the integration means that RSA is aiming to achieve “one voice to market”, even though brokers will, for now, continue to see both NIG and RSA products when they search for quotes.

Bryson explains: “Where there is a product that exists in one entity and not the other we will be taking those products across, with a bit of an overlap in the middle for things like commercial combined property owners. 

”Essentially we have two legacy businesses. But it was important to put the combined leadership structure in place so that it all adds up to one point – although there’s two businesses operating beneath it, we’ve got a holistic view from the top.” 

And following a period of around eight weeks to allow for competition law requirements, RSA and acquired NIG teams will come together to identify the best products from both firms’ stables so that there is no duplication of quotes for brokers. 

Bryson emphasises: ”There will be a pragmatic view taken. We could build brand new products but it would just provide more friction to the market, which nobody wants or needs.

“The absolute worst thing that could happen from my perspective is for an NIG salesperson to turn up in the morning and then an RSA one turns up in the afternoon.

”We want a united front that easier to navigate for brokers, so if we can reduce frictional points, then we’re doing well on our journey.”