Axa’s loss is very much Axa’s gain
See also: Paul Meehan video interview
He said he'd be back. Strangely enough, it seems as though he never left.
When AXA bought broking giants Layton Blackham, Stuart Alexander and Smart & Cook last year, it got something else as well: a trio of highly touted chief executives to run its burgeoning broker arm.
It soon became clear, however, that Venture Preference would never be big enough for the three of them.
Yet when the axe fell the man left standing, Stuart Reid, was not the one whom the market had predicted.
Few might have agreed with the decision, but fewer still would have believed that Paul Meehan would return to the insurer less than five months after being shown the door.
“Few might have agreed with the decision, but fewer still would have believed that Paul Meehan would return to the insurer less than five months after being shown the door.
The episode has more than a hint of irony about it. As one source close to the matter put it: “Meehan two, Axa nil.”
But now that they're on the same team again, it surely won't be long before the insurer starts scoring.
The reality is that few know the market better, or are more respected than Meehan. Given the wider economic pressures gripping the sector at present, the scrutiny on the larger insurers’ expense bases, and the cracks in the insurer-broker fault that are increasingly starting to show, it seems clear that Meehan’s return to the fold will go some way to anulling concerns that senior staff (and with it, the bottom line) are travelling only in one direction at the company.
Whatever the case at Axa may be, things seem to have worked out rather well for the wily Yorkshireman. He spent the last few months growing his fledgling consultancy business, playing in his myriad of bands, and striding around the city with his A to Z – of job offers.
Axa, who are understood to have placed restrictions on where Meehan might resurface at the time of his leaving, will be no doubt delighted about what he may have learned about its rivals since then.
In fact, you might say that Meehan has been promoted after taking extended leave, or even going on sabbatical.
“Meehans return to the fold will go some way to anulling concerns that senior staff - and with it, the bottom line - are travelling only in one direction at the insurer.
The question is, what will the new job be, and how much free reign will he have?
With Venture Preference focusing on integrating the newest, largest and most unusual addition to its £1bn GWP family, SBJ, it’s entirely possible that Meehan, who steered Smart & Cook through the better part of 50 acquisitions, will have a guiding hand in running the business.
Much more likely, however, he will focus on improving the insurer’s clouded relationship with its brokers, understood to be one the main reasons for UK chief Peter Hubbard’s departure three months ago.
Meehan will also doubtless pay some attention to the various strands of Axa’s claims, IT, online trading and underwriting functions, while plugging the hole left by former markets managing director, Mark Cliff.
Given the weight of the task that lies ahead for all general insurers, whatever price Axa have paid for his renewed service – and however unsavoury that slice of humble pie across the channel may taste – the move is a strong statement of intent from an insurer that continues to make the headlines.
This time, at least, it is for the right reason.