Who are the key people in the north-west
North-west director, Allianz
The big three insurers in Manchester remain, like elsewhere in the country, Aviva, AXA, and RSA. But Allianz has been making waves in the city’s insurance market, assisted by its decision to move its main north-west office back into the central business district in 2004. “We’ve worked hard to expand our footprint,” says Allianz’s north-west director Alex Stuart, who has headed the Manchester office for the past two years. His chief lieutenant is highly regarded head underwriter Steve Cheshire.
Group managing director, Reich Insurance
Reich Insurance has a long history, dating back to the Second World War. Yet the firm had just three employees when chairman Danny Lopian joined in the late 1980s. By the time group managing director Taylor joined in 2002, that number had grown to 18. Now, the company has a headcount of more than 60, with 40% of its business generated in London. The core business is commercial property, which accounts for 70%-75% of its total gross written premium. Taylor says he and Lopian, who are responsible for much of the face-to-face work with clients, tend to deal mainly with privately owned landlords. But, to illustrate Reich’s status as a national player, Taylor points out that the firm is Zurich’s biggest property broker in the UK.
Mike Latham heads up the Manchester outpost of Jelf, which until 2008 was the long-standing and leading Manchester independent broker Manson. Manson was Bristol-based Jelf’s first acquisition outside its traditional southern England and South Wales heartland.
Last year, along with the group’s other recent broking acquisitions, the Manson business was brought under the umbrella of Jelf Insurance Brokers. Latham, who was managing director of Manson pre-acquisition, now has a place on the Jelf Insurance Brokers board. However, Aviva’s Gareth Hemming says that, like other independent brokers acquired by Jelf, the former Manson business retains a strong degree of operational independence. Earlier this year, Jelf Manson moved to a new 15,000 sq ft office in Quay Street at the heart of the Manchester business district.
Chief executive, Swinton
Swinton is by far the biggest broker based in Greater Manchester, with its head offices on the outskirts of the city centre, just around the corner from Oxford Road station.
But like the other big insurance company based in Manchester – Co-operative Insurance Services – Swinton has a loose relationship with the city’s insurance market. A mainly personal lines broker operating through a network of high street branches, Swinton chief executive Peter Halpin says that the firm’s main relationships are at a national rather than local level.
However, Swinton has a big presence in the city. The company is named after the Manchester suburb where its first branch was established.
And its 18 branches in the Greater Manchester are above average for the UK as a whole, according to Halpin. He says: “We’ve expanded to all parts of the country, although the concentration of branches throughout the north-west and Manchester is particularly high.”
All told, Swinton has around 850 employees across Manchester, including 470 in the head office.
While Bollington is based in the Cheshire village it is named after, it remains umbilically tied to the Manchester market. As chairman of Biba’s north-west region, the ex-Hyde Grammar schoolboy is widely acknowledged as the head of the city’s insurance mafia. Moors set up his own broking business in the 1990s, then merged it with Bollington in 1998 before performing a management buyout of the company in 2003. Then, five years ago, Bollington sold a 60% stake to Groupama in a deal that has seen the broker retain its operational independence.
The sale has not led to Moors himself pulling any punches. In a legendary after-dinner speech at the Biba north-west annual dinner in Manchester two years ago, Moors laid into insurers over their service standards.
Managing director, north, Marsh
Paul Fairhurst has a 35-year track record in the Manchester insurance market. He joined Marsh in 2006 to become the managing director of the global broker’s north of England operations. Before then, Fairhurst was regional director for Willis, where he had been for 18 years.
General insurance director, Co-operative Insurance
As the biggest insurer with its headquarters in Manchester, the Co-op has a large presence, most notably in the form of the CIS Tower. However, as a personal lines insurer that has handed over its legacy commercial books to other insurers, the Co-op has little day-to-day engagement with the general insurance community.
But general insurance director David Neave has made a splash at the national level in recent months with his announcement that the Co-op has become the first insurer to introduce telematics technology.