David Gittings, who takes over the top job at the Lloyd's Market Association, has an impressive pedigree, but will his zeal and skills be enough to drive through the market reforms needed? Emma Jones talks to the man
People are expecting great things from David Gittings. He has barely settled into the tenth floor office vacated by Simon Sperryn and already he is being hailed in some quarters as "an activist" and "the right man at the right time".
High praise indeed, but a glance at his CV would suggest that the former barrister has a career distinguished enough on which to hang it. He has, after all, sat at some of the top tables in the insurance and financial world.
From 1995 to 2002 Gittings was director of regulation at Lloyd's, prior to which, he held various senior positions at the London Stock Exchange and at the Securities and Futures Authority.
He was a member of both Lloyd's Regulatory Board and Lloyd's Market Board and a founder member of the board of the General Insurance Standards Council.
Add to that his time in the market at Wellington Underwriting, his chairmanship of the Lloyd's Market Association (LMA) professional standards committee and his role in helping to set up one of the first City regulators, which ultimately became the FSA, and you begin to understand why he is regarded in such high esteem.
Though when meeting Gittings for the first time, he appears unaffected by the weight of expectation and the pressure that this current job can bring.
"The first job I ever did was handling criminal injury compensation claims in Glasgow so there are very few things that faze me," he says.
"I've also been around in the Lloyd's market for quite a long time now, 12 years or so, and I have also been around the financial services market in the City for a lot longer than that – over 20 years. So, I think I am able to put what I see happening in Lloyd's into a broader perspective."
You can't help but feel that the role of chief executive was made for Gittings. As one senior industry figure puts it: "He is the ideal candidate and the man for the moment."
With that in mind, it comes as no surprise, despite a word of caution that he is not in a position to talk about the LMA's priorities having only been in the role for over eight weeks, that he is forthright on how he plans to make his mark.
Respected and influential
"I would like the LMA to be regarded as respected and influential, and being influential doesn't necessarily mean shouting the loudest. I would like the LMA to be regarded as an organisation that can bring the various parts of the market together in a co-operative and constructive way.
"It is our job to articulate the consensus and represent the views of the guys running those businesses."
Certain quarters of the market have accused the LMA in the past of being "vacuous". Some even go so far as to say that it is time for the LMA to work out what its agenda is so the market can take back the lead from Lloyd's in shaping change.
Gittings is not oblivious to the confusion that exists over who is doing what and who is driving the agenda, particularly on business process reform.
He says: "One of the most useful things the LMA can do right now is to work towards bringing more clarity to that [situation], contributing towards that and the views of the guys who have got to carry on doing the business throughout this while implementing business process reform, and actually to look forwards not just at what is already going on."
He is already in phase two of a three-pronged action plan to achieve that aim. Phase one was an intensive two-month information gathering and fact finding mission, where, by his own admission, he tried to get "under the skin" of those doing business at Lloyd's and find out what they thought about life.
Phase two, he says, is about articulating what the LMA is all about, what it is currently doing, what issues it is currently addressing, and what outcomes it is currently looking for.
"For the first time I want to actually make available to all of our stakeholders what the LMA is doing. So that will include everything, not only on the market reform front, but on risk capital, professional standards and regulation.
"I want to have a document that is freely available to anyone who wishes to view it by which our progress can be judged, because I firmly believe we will be judged by what we do and not what we say," Gittings insists.
That document is expected to be made available by the end of April and from then Gittings is determined to deliver against those work streams.
"The market will be able to see what we are about. The broking community, the company market, the Corporation and the FSA will be able to pick something up and see what the LMA is doing, and if we are not doing what the market wants us to be engaged in then we will change what we are doing because they are the ones setting our agenda."
So what does he see as the key areas where the LMA can add value?
The first, but not necessarily the most important according to Gittings, is to continue the work on operational reform and in particular electronic placing. He sees that as the "next major building block" in the market's drive towards business process reform.
It is fair to say that operational reform has taken its hold on a market once resentful of change in any form. The market's progress is so distinct that Gittings is quick to sound a word of warning.
"As an association and as a market we have to be careful not to focus all our attention on one set of issues because there are a number of other things going on around us at the same time. There are other things coming on the horizon that we mustn't lose sight of."
According to the chief executive, these are risk management, professional standards and capital issues, such as Solvency II.
Decline in talent
Combine those with the worrying decline in talent in the claim's arena and there is much for Gittings and his team to do.
In order to achieve those, he has already made some organisational changes to the LMA to put it in better stead to align the organisation with the issues that he thinks need to be addressed.
Gittings has included a new head of financial policy taken directly from the corporation, who will lead the association's line on matters such as Solvency II. Another important element to the LMA's mission to achieve change is what Gittings calls the LMA's "unsung strength".
"A tremendous strength that we have is the number of market practitioners who give up time to participate in LMA's work in those areas – hundreds of underwriters and claims people who freely give up their time. That's the unsung strength of the LMA because there is much of that going on behind the scenes," he explains.
People may be expecting great things from David Gittings, and it is clear he is fit for purpose. But, among the respect and praise being heaped on his shoulders, he is keen to point out that to achieve what everyone wants to achieve – a profitable and well regulated marketplace – then the responsibility of reform lies on everyone's shoulders.
"The LMA has a major contribution to make, but so does the IUA and the LMBC, the Lloyd's Corporation, the managing agents and brokers themselves, and of course the underwriters. Everybody has to contribute to this. My sense is that the willingness is there, but we have to keep driving it through." IT