New insurers set up shop after centralising operations

Willis has moved to plug the gaps in its Birmingham office after a series of resignations over the past year.

In July, Gallagher announced that it was recruiting four senior executives from Willis’ Birmingham office. Gallagher Heath Birmingham
office head and former Willis senior executive Mark Williams had approached the four executives, who have now all started their new jobs.

The news followed the exit of Willis’s Birmingham office head Richard Waltier at the beginning of this year to join regional broker Jobson James. Broker director Kevan Parker followed four months later.

Tony West replaced Waltier as Birmingham office head. Willis has since recruited former Lockton national partner Ray Pickford as broking director of its Birmingham office and is seeking to recruit further executives. Pickford began work in September.

Lockton’s appointment of Debbie Day, which was announced last month, is understood to be unconnected to Pickford’s departure from the broker earlier this year.

Elsewhere in Birmingham, Perkins Slade’s associate director Lyn Richards-Cole is moving to Aon later this year to take the role of client services director, which has been performed by Mark Crawford for the past year. Richards-Cole is chair of the Chartered Insurance Institute’s broker faculty, which Crawford - who will return to his former post of broker director – also sits on.

This turnover at the city’s leading broking firms has been mirrored in the insurers, which have seen a flood of new capacity and entrants over the past year. Arista, Aspen, Girling, Mitsui and XL have all recently set up operations in the city.

Mitsui has made two new appointments at its Birmingham office: Mark Hayward is regional manager and Christopher Tipping is regional development manager. Arista is understood to be seeking new offices as it beefs up its profile in the city.

Birmingham Insurance Institute president Matthew Green said that the recent spate of entries reflected a move by insurers to centralise their operations, which big cities such as Birmingham have benefitted from.

Insurers have been setting up shop in the city despite the tough economic conditions, which have been particularly acute in the West Midlands, where manufacturing remains a lynchpin of the regional economy.

Williams said: “It’s an extremely tough environment. Businesses have struggled during the recession, some have had to downsize and others have disappeared.”

The tough climate and growth of capacity means that the retention of existing customers is increasingly the name of the game for insurers and brokers, who are prepared to pay a premium in order to take people out of their comfort zone.

Green, who is also a director at recruitment consultancy IDEX, said: “The influx of new competition has substantially increased capacity and put pressure on rates.”

Talking points …

● A host of insurers have entered Birmingham over the past year. Will they succeed, given the tough conditions in the Midlands? And will they provide fresh opportunities for independent brokers?
● Brokers and insurers are keen to retain their existing clients. What concessions will they make to stop risks entering the market?
● There has been much consolidation in Birmingham over the past decade, but a number of brokers have also broken out. What will happen over the next five years?


Who’s who

Mark Williams led Gallagher Heath’s raid on Willis in the summer, recruiting four senior executives. Williams joined the then Heath Lambert from Willis in 2009, taking over the former’s West Midlands operation, which operates in Birmingham city centre and nearby Brierley Hill.

Lynn Richards-Cole sold her own broker business to Perkins Slade, Birmingham’s biggest independent broker, a decade ago and has worked there ever since. Now she is on the move to Aon as client development director. She is also chair of the Chartered Institute of Insurance’s broker faculty. 

Mark Crawford has returned to the role of broking director for Aon’s central region after a year as regional client services director. With 30 years in insurance, he dressed up as a chicken for charity to celebrate landing an account with a food processing company.

Richard Waltier moved to Jobson James at the beginning of this year after nearly four years at Willis as regional director for the West Midlands. An ex-army officer, who rose to the rank of major, Waltier initially worked in logistics before moving to Marsh, where he was head of UK business risk consulting.