Focusing on integrity as well as delivering impressive results, the industry is losing one of its champions

After a 47-year career at the helm of a business he has taken from a small family enterprise to a global operation and household name, Robert Hiscox has announced his retirement. And what a way to go. The 2011 results, announced today, show that the insurer has increased the profit made from its UK retail division by a staggering 69% year on year. And while the global numbers may look less impressive on the face of it, posting a £21.3m in one of the heaviest cat-loss years of recent times is no mean feat.

Hiscox is one of a kind. Unlike many business leaders, he has not been afraid to speak his mind when the occasion demands, with bankers and politicians frequently coming under his eloquent fire. The market owes him a great debt for his role in the rebuilding of LLoyd’s following the LMX spiral, spearheading the introduction of corporate capital that enabled Lloyd’s to evolve and survive.

He has been a great champion for the industry, both in his public broadsides at the red tape and other idiocy that sometimes strangles it; and in building a brand that is known for top-quality service, customer focus and integrity. Brokers and end customers know what the Hiscox brand stands for – as demonstrated by their consistent scoring within the top three on Insurance Times’ annual survey of broker satisfaction. Sadly, the same cannot be said for many other carriers – as reflected starkly by the industry’s public reputation.

This commitment to consistently deliver on brand values has no doubt helped Hiscox in its rapid growth in the UK market. As it develops outside its home in Lloyd’s, the business is well positioned for the next generation, under the established leadership of chief executive Bronek Masojada. As Hiscox outlines in today’s statement to the market, he retains a significant investment in the business (or “skin in the game” as he puts it).

His investment, both personal and financial, in the business looks set to pay solid dividends for years to come – but Hiscox himself will be sorely missed, and not just within the company that bears his name.