Current ABI chair Jon Dye says the changes will ’enrich’ the board with independent perspectives 

The Association of British Insurer’s (ABI) board has undergone changes in a bid to redouble the industry’s efforts to boost customer trust, enhance reputation and tackle future risks, such as climate change.

The changes are as follows:

  • Barry O’Dwyer, group chief executive of Royal London, and Cristina Nestares, UK chief executive of Admiral Group, will take on new roles of president and deputy president respectively on the ABI board, effective from 1 July 2021.
  • The recruitment of a new independent chair and an independent non-executive director (NED) to bring fresh external perspectives, enrich diversity of experience and reinforce strong governance.
  • The creation of a new board-level reputation and customers committee to provide more focus on good customer outcomes and a greater collective focus on issues proving harmful to the sector’s reputation.

Jon Dye, the ABI’s current chair, said: “These changes will enrich our board with new independent perspectives while ensuring industry leaders continue to be the voice of the sector in discussions with governments and regulators.”

The new independent chair and independent NED are expected to be appointed in the autumn.

Current chair Dye and deputy chair Julian Adams will continue to chair ABI board meetings until the new independent chair begins.

The responsibilities of the new independent chair will include chairing the ABI board and the reputation and customers committee, as well as line managing the director general.

Mitigating groupthink

Dye continued: “Given the sheer range of challenges the insurance and long-term savings sector faces, our board has to operate more effectively than ever before. The appointment of the independent chair and NED will bring valuable insights and help mitigate the risk of groupthink.”

Groupthink is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor quality decision-making.

“At the same time, we know many senior stakeholders hugely value dealing [with] experienced industry leaders and we are delighted to announce O’Dwyer and Nestares as the ABI’s first president and deputy president. They bring a wealth of expertise as we face into major issues, including improving customer trust and reputation and tackling climate change,” Dye said.

Big challenges ahead

The newly created president and deputy president roles will lead the ABI board on stakeholder engagement and public facing industry leadership, as well as providing internal leadership among the ABI’s members.

O’Dwyer said: “It is a privilege to have been trusted by colleagues across the industry to take up the position of president and represent the sector on the big challenges we face.

”Whether it is making our sector more diverse, freeing our opportunities to invest in the future through Solvency II reform, customer reforms to improve trust or leading the race to net zero, we must lift our ambitions and work closely with government and regulators on the challenges ahead.”

Nestares added: “I am excited to work with O’Dwyer, the new independent chair and ABI board on the big agenda we have ahead.

”We must ensure our sector continues to deliver for customers and is the destination of choice for the brightest and the best talent. We have a lot of work ahead, but I can’t wait to get started.”

Huw Evans, outgoing director general of the ABI, said: “I would like to put on record again my thanks to Dye and Julian Adams, who have led the ABI’s board with such vision, commitment and sure-footed skill over the past two eventful years. We are all very grateful to them.”