When the Independent way let him down, Andy Hawkes opted for a quieter life. So why did he choose to become managing director at Rarragini & Rosso? Christine Seib explains
It can't be easy being best known in the industry as one of the directors of Independent Insurance. So when Andy Hawkes opted for a relatively quiet life following Independent's spectacular and acrimonious collapse, who could blame him. He took a job as deputy general manager at St Paul Insurance and got on with heading research, product development, risk management and e-commerce.
Hawkes is adamant he intended to stay at St Paul for the long term.
"I had two or three job offers that I rejected, so it wasn't the only thing I could have done," he says.
"When I left Independent, the experience was fairly shocking and I was very, very lucky to be made an offer to get involved in something that was innovative at St Paul."
But the quiet life just didn't suit him, so when Rarrigini & Rosso Group chief executive Julie Rodilosso offered him a job as managing director of Rarrigini & Rosso (R&R), he couldn't resist.
Hawkes started his new job two weeks ago.
"I spent a lot of time working in an exciting environment," he says of his days at Independent.
"Over the past six months, it hasn't been as exciting, but this has got the juices flowing."
Hawkes is one of four high-powered appointments made by Rodilosso over recent months. Ex-Compaq main board member Hiten Patel joined as managing director of 24 7 Broking two months ago. Mike Duncan, ex-IT director at Eastgate, started as group chief communication officer two weeks ago. And The Exchange founder Paul Lyndsay, having sold his business to Marlborough Sterling, was signed up as non-executive chairman soon after.
Hawkes has known Rodilosso since he set up Independent's businessrisk.com, now owned by AXA, over two years ago.
"24 7 was the first to say `we can do this' about the whole concept of the application service provider, so I got very enthusiastic about what Julie was doing," he says.
He says Rodilosso has carefully timed the appointments as part of the group's big surge forward.
"If you're ever going to build the business, this is the market," he says. "We want to be part of that rising tide."
Combined with finance director Andy Jackson, commercial director Martin Ward and sales director Glen McCully, it's what Hawkes describes as a "real quality, hard-nosed team".
Patel has been hired to oversee the release of 24 7, the application service provider that has been the group's most hyped product.
Meanwhile, Hawkes has been put in charge of expanding the group's quiet money spinner - R&R and its portfolio of broker-only products, including Fleet UK, Property UK, Encompass, Icarus and Goodsure.
The products are underwritten by big-name insurers such as Zurich, AXA and Chubb and bring the group a premium income of £70m a year. R&R also comprises Active Risk Management, which is a sizeable driver-training provider.
Hawkes plans to expand the range of specialist products, though he says it is too early to set a target premium income.
Within six to eight months, Hawkes also plans to provide R&R's network of 450 brokers - which he says are "top end" with an average premium income of £10m plus - with risk auditors they can white label to their clients." If insurers are interested in the auditors, we'll consider that as well," he says.
Not bad for a group launched by Rodilosso in 1996 as a marketing and strategic support service for brokers.
Hawkes says the group's two arms will eventually become closer, with R&R's products on 24 7 and the system being used every day by R&R.
He says there is a steady stream of brokers visiting the group's Peterborough office to check out 24 7, but he is too savvy to offer a date for its general release.
"The whole team has been absolutely focused over the past six months and we're getting consultant feedback from our five pilot brokers, but we can't upset our existing relationships with our 450 brokers by releasing it before it is ready," he says.
Hawkes' reticence is most likely due to the criticism meted out to 24 7 for its delayed release and, by association, Rodilosso.
"This industry is lacking passion and belief, so when people like Julie come along and say it how it is, some people don't like that," he says. "After all, we're supposed to be prudent and boring. But I've known people who weren't prudent and boring and I'd rather work somewhere with a vision."
With these references to Independent, Hawkes indicates he does not feel, and has not been treated as, stigmatised by the 14 years he spent at the insurer.
"I wouldn't change it for the world, except perhaps the last three months," he says.
"There are a lot of people who are very pious, but I think `There but for the grace of God, go I'."