It’s all change at the UK’s biggest brokers in the scramble to build business

General insurance broking as a sector shrank by a third over the past five years. Or rather, the number of general insurance intermediary firms authorised by the FSA had fallen by 30.1% to 6,117 in September 2011, compared to 8,750 in the same month in 2006.

The figures reflect the radically changed trading environment for brokers. With this in mind, firms are focused on finding the right people and creating the best structures to drive business forward.

JLT is a case in point. The company has said it will merge its Regional Partnership and Global Risk Solutions businesses, under the stewardship of specialty chief operating officer Warren Downey. A move away from generic mid-market broking and toward a greater focus on specialty business, it is one way to try to protect profit in a continuing soft market for commercial lines.

In the wider industry, a focus on specialty business is only likely to intensify next year and, as hiring and firing often accompany a business restructure, management shake-ups and staff raids on other firms are on the rise. Different management styles may also be in demand as firms respond to trading conditions unlike those of the boom years.

Towergate’s raid on Aviva to find new chief executive Mark Hodges will surely help it en route to its aspired public listing in three to five years’ time. Hodges has appointed CCV chief executive Micheal Rea as head of Towergate Retail and Towergate Financial; while former Gallagher Heath products and markets director Graham Barr joined CCV as chief operating officer.

Movers and shake-ups in the big firms

The firm is entering a new life phase as top brass Peter Cullum and Andy Homer step back after a £930m refinancing in February. It scored a coup on netting Mark Hodges as chief executive. The appointment as chairman of Alistair Lyons, also Admiral chair, added another high-profile name to the top team. But ex-group deputy chief executive Amanda Blanc’s switch to AXA in late 2010 prompted a flurry of senior departures: former Powerplace chief executive Matthew Reed and Max Carruthers, ex-Towergate operations director, both joined her at the insurer.

Gallagher Heath
The rebranded broking arm of Heath Lambert and Gallagher went on an aggressive poaching mission after completing its merger. It netted Towergate’s Dave Partington, head of retail broking; Nigel Palmer, head of affinity business; Simon Read, head of commercial; and Scott Banks, head of homeowners. But Adrian Colosso, elder statesman of retail broking, with 37 years’ experience under his belt, is expected to leave after a period of sabbatical.

Heavyweight Brendan McManus made an unexplained exit as Willis UK and Ireland chief executive in October. The bets are on as to where he may resurface.