As restrictive covenants begin to expire, the entrepreneurs will be making their comeback
Peter Wood is finally back in the driving seat. In a rare and candid interview with Insurance Times, he spells out his plans for the Esure business following the long-awaited deal to buy out Lloyds Banking Group.
When it comes to banks holding the cards, this entrepreneur has form: market wisdom holds that he never forgave The Royal Bank of Scotland for walking away with the lion’s share of Direct Line’s success. But never mind that; Wood still has new places to go, including, he hints, cover for the over-50s. And this time, he’ll be in control.
Wood is an example – albeit an extremely successful one – of a type that crops up time and again in the insurance market. He’s an entrepreneur to the bone, and though he may take institutional cash as and when necessary, it never sits quite right. Just look at the consolidators that dominate the broker market from Peter Cullum down: entrepreneurs every one, and personalities who lead from the front, leaving the money men in the shadows.
As the restrictive covenants put in place in the heyday of consolidation begin to expire, we can expect to see entrepreneurs return to the market in their droves. Take Chris Blackham. A couple of years on from having sold his business to AXA and seen it subsumed into what is now known as Bluefin, he’s back, as a non-executive director of broker Howden.
As we report this week, Blackham could also soon be revealed as the chairman of Aquilla, a property broker set up by his former right-hand man Geoff Bradford. This would see the team pitted directly against Bluefin, with clients offered a choice between size, solidity, brand and backing on the one hand, and agility, personal relationships and entrepreneurialism on the other.
This is where it can all get a bit messy, because when people have sold their businesses, it is clearly wrong to wait a couple of years and then start chasing their old clients. But as long as it’s all done to the letter of the law, and in the spirit of fairness, surely everyone will benefit from a bit of old-fashioned competition? IT