Read on for more of our top 50 leaders in the know, from 11 down to 20
Chief executive: Julian James
Global broking group Lockton has continued to maintain its position just outside the top 10, without making any big changes to the business.
Like chief executive Julian James, the broker has kept a seemingly low profile in the market since it was handed a £15m cash injection in January 2009. Its US parent company, the Lockton family and shareholder Stone Point Capital had plans to grow the international business.
Last year Lockton chairman Mike Hammond told Insurance Times that Lockton International had grown its top-line revenue by 30% and cut its headcount by 15% in the three years since Alexander Forbes was acquired by Lockton to form Lockton International.
It is the firm’s policy not to reveal its underlying figures but the broker's performance is reflected in its 11th place ranking, up one place on last year. Hammond ruled out acquisitions, preferring to focus on organic growth and adding new teams instead. It completed a major expansion of its Birmingham office in a bid to extend its presence in the Midlands. Former managing director of Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander's banking division Trevor Foster was named regional chairman.
Overseas, Lockton has been busy. It bought a key stake in Australian intermediary Australian Reliance and opened an office in Rio de Janeiro aimed at commercial and reinsurance clients.
It also struck a deal to become the sole global insurance partner to football event organisation company Soccerex.
Chief executive: Toby Esser
If his latest deal is anything to go by, Cooper Gay chief executive Toby Esser likes to think big. In July, his firm completed its purchase of US wholesale broker Swett & Crawford – a one-time subsidiary of broking giant Aon – creating a combined entity that places $3.5bn in premiums across the US, London and international markets.
Before this, Cooper Gay was already firmly established in the Lloyd’s and London wholesale and reinsurance markets, having set up shop in 1965. It had grown internationally and developed a small presence in the US. But the recent acquisition has taken Cooper Gay into a new category, Esser himself boasting that the company is now the largest independent wholesale reinsurance broker in the world.
Although Swett is US-based, the buy could do much to improve Cooper Gay’s standing as a Lloyd’s broker, given that a lot of US excess and surplus lines business finds its way to the market. Esser’s next challenge is to build up the firm’s UK resources to handle this additional placing power.
As the Swett deal proves, Esser is not shy of making acquisitions to bolster Cooper Gay’s market position. Since he took the helm in 2001, the company has expanded rapidly – a key milestone being the acquisition of a 51% stake in German broker Junge & Co in 2002. It went on to buy the remainder of the firm in 2006.
More recent purchases include Florida reinsurance broker Reinsurance.com.ar and the acquisition of the 49% stake in Brazilian arm Cooper Gay do Brasil that it did not already own. However, Esser is also keen to point out the firm’s organic growth.
While bedding in the Swett purchase is likely to keep Esser and his management team occupied for some time, he has not ruled out making further acquisitions should the right opportunity arise. The company is also planning an IPO for some point in the future, although it is not yet clear when or where the company will float. Will it stick to its London roots or defect to the USA?
Chief executive: Adrian Colosso
Heath Lambert is a very different company to the lumbering, loss-making broker Adrian Colosso inherited when he took charge in 2004. He wasted no time in overhauling the firm to bring focus. The old Heath Lambert dabbled in many areas – retail, wholesale, reinsurance and international business – but Colosso was determined it should concentrate on its strengths of retail brokerage and employee benefits consulting, while retaining some specialist wholesale business.
In May 2008 Heath Lambert sold its aviation, UK wholesale and reinsurance businesses to Cooper Gay, which Colosso describes as a key milestone. A month later, the firm completed its wholesale exit strategy by releasing employees from its Global Business Solutions wholesale division – which had been excluded from the Cooper Gay deal – to Arthur J Gallagher International for an undisclosed sum.
Colosso is also credited with simplifying the group’s management structure.
There have been hiccups along the way, notably the defection of 50 staff from the real estate team to Willis in 2004 and fruitless merger talks with Jardine Lloyd Thompson in 2006. But Colosso has taken it all in his stride.
Part of his success at managing such a transformation is his uncompromising – some would say ruthless – pursuit of success and straight talking. The announcement of Heath Lambert’s withdrawal from the JLT merger discussions typify Colosso’s tough, no-nonsense style. One would be forgiven for thinking that the press release’s headline, “Heath Lambert pulls plug on JLT deal”, had come from a newspaper rather than the firm’s communications team.
During Colosso’s tenure, Heath Lambert has won insurance accounts for several large infrastructure deals, among them the Crossrail and Thames Tideway projects.
While the situation at Heath Lambert has settled down after years of change and turmoil, and the company is now profitable – it posted net income of £19.9m in 2008 – it is unlikely that Colosso will be allowed to rest on his laurels. The continuing effects of the financial crisis on all brokers’ revenues will no doubt keep him busy for some time to come.
Managing director: Brendan Devine
Fortis’ acquisition of Kwik-Fit Insurance Services has been the big story among broking takeovers so far this year. The £215m deal extends Fortis’ multi-distribution strategy in the motor space, while Kwik-Fit’s insurance arm – offloaded by its parent group to trim its bank debts – gains a cash-rich and stable parent.
Fortis chief executive Barry Smith has promised to leave the business alone and retain the brand. Kwik-Fit is a solid, if unglamorous performer, intent on organic growth rather than acquisitions.
Kwik-Fit has become a subsidiary of Fortis UK with managing director Brendan Devine continuing to run the business. Under the new structure, Devine will reporting to Fortis UK retail managing director Andy Watson.
Kwik-Fit made a profit of £9.9m for the year to 31 December 2009, up 12.7% from £8.8m in 2008. Its motor book shrank 1% last year compared with 2008, but outperformed its peers in motor broking.
The company is not afraid to use aggregators. Its household book grew 27% last year, largely through penetration on price comparison sites.
A major development, which should help the company increase revenues this year, was the decision to employ more call centre staff. In April, the company announced it would be adding 70 more staff to its call centre at Uddingston, Glasgow. The roles include outbound sales and customer service jobs, as well as internet sales roles.
Its subsidiary, the Green Insurance Company, increased revenues 62% and profit before tax almost doubled to £700,000, while Express Insurance’s reduced margins caused profit before tax at the unit to fall by £1m, or 27%, from its 2008 level.
Managing director: Janet Connor
Last year was a good one for Fortis subsidiary RIAS and managing director Janet Connor. She remains the most prominent female head of a broking company, as it broke through the £80m turnover mark for the first time since its launch in 1992 and grew its motor insurance book by 13%.
A provider of insurance products for the over-50s, the broker offers home, car, travel, pet, caravan and breakdown insurance as well as funeral planning and life assurance. Connor, who joined the firm in May 2006, reported a net profit of £17.8m for the year to 31 December 2009, compared with £16m for the previous year. Total expenses fell slightly from £56.1m to £55.8m.
RIAS has nearly a million motor, home and travel insurance customers and employs about 1,000 people in two UK sites. In the first five months of 2010, RIAS launched its motor insurance additional cover option, MOT Protection; its Home Insurance additional cover option, the Broken Bones Cash Plan; and its life assurance policy, the RIAS Over 50s Life Plan, which was underwritten by sister company Fortis Life in May.
Capita Insurance Services
Managing director: Mark Townsend
A review is on the cards for Capita Insurance Services’ many broking brands, following the recent acquisition of motor specialist Sureterm Direct, managing director Mark Townsend told Insurance Times earlier this year.
One of the sector's youngest chief officers, 35-year-old Townsend joined Capita when it acquired BDML in 2005, overseeing the integration of the two. Some rationalisation is now needed, judging by the variety belonging to the famously heterogenous group – still best known for outsourcing public services, most famously the London congestion charge.
Alongside recent acquisition Sureterm, which offers insurance for niche vehicles, the company also has the Hero and Lancaster brands in the motor space. Its other customer-facing brands include A Quote, First Quote and BDML. On top of that, the FTSE 100 group also has its Thornside pet business, which has formed partnerships with retailers Sainsbury’s and Littlewoods recently.
Townsend said the company had too many brands and would be reviewing the situation before the end of the year. He also hinted that both Lancaster and Sureterm would survive any cull. The company made an impressive appearance in the Top 50 this year, leapfrogging Giles to rise two places. This reflects its most recent set of results, which reported double-digit percentage growth in turnover and profits.
Giles Insurance Services
Chief executive: Chris Giles
During a topsy-turvy period, Chris Giles’s firm has become one of the most talked about brokers in the UK market. The past year has included a host of senior management changes and further acquisitions, as it seeks fresh impetus to drive towards a sale or flotation by 2012. Despite turning in a £22.6m pre-tax loss in 2009, Giles said it was the best performance out of all the consolidators.
Recent deals include the retail division of James Hampden Insurance in May, shortly after it completed the transfer of wholesale operation FSJ from Cooper Gay.
Earlier in the year Giles also picked up the entire team of Brightstar Risk Solutions to form a corporate and financial risks division in London.
Giles has slowly been building up its regional business in the UK, with a particular focus on Wales during the past year. In February, it invested £500,000 in a regional “super-office” in Llantrisant, south Wales in a bid to cement its position in the region.
Giles has brought in former deputy chief executive of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group George Prescott as non-executive chairman and has promoted operations director Sarah Lyons to group managing director. There have also been a number of notable departures, including retail managing director Howard Pearson and trading and placement director Andrew Watson.
Giles still has private equity cash from backer Charterhouse burning a hole in its pocket and is desperate for a transformational deal before any firm talk of a float can begin.
There have been plenty of rumours of a deal with Oval, but as yet nothing has emerged – though the feeling is it’s not a matter of if but when the broking giant will pounce.
Arthur J Gallagher
Chief executive: David Ross
Continuing its steady rise in the Top 50, Arthur Gallagher London places risk for clients in more than 90 countries. Chief executive David Ross has been with Gallagher for 19 years.
Founded in 1974, the company has been on the acquisition trail over the past year. In March, it bought financial and professional risks specialist First City, which featured in last year’s Top 50. Then, in July, AJG purchased the remaining part of leading natural resources broker SBA in Western Australia.
The company made a net profit of £73.2m in the first half of 2010, boosting revenues by 10.2% – 4% up on the $70.2m it made in last year’s first half. Its year started well when the broker secured the remaining part of a $30m jewellers’ block account from HSBC Insurance Brokers.
The broker concentrates on four key areas: natural resources business, including energy, mining and heavy-duty construction; risk management business for large corporate clients; mainstream middle-market business (both retail and wholesale); and managing general agency-related business, with a focus on the UK and Europe. After its most recent acquisitions, Gallagher must be confident of making another improvement in its Top 50 position next year.
Chief executive: Graham Clarke
Founded in 1902 by Thomas Miller, Miller’s main lines of business include commercial contingency, corporate risks, marine, property and reinsurance. Continuity is reflected in the London market broker’s leadership too: chief executive Graham Clarke has been with the company since 1982, becoming chief executive a decade ago.
Reporting its results recently, Miller admitted that the market had been tough over the past year. But the broker’s total operating revenues increased by 14% to £76.9m (16% at constant rates of exchange) and operating profit rose 10%. Capital and reserves were also up £5.3m to £24.1m.
In June, Miller joined international broker network Assurex Global, which operates in more than 80 countries on six continents, increasing the company’s geographical servicing reach.
This year, the broker has been busy expanding its team, nabbing former Guy Carpenter managing director Adrian Stewart to lead its property reinsurance book and Aon’s Matt Grimwade to head its major UK and Europe corporate accounts.
Chief executive: Alex Alway
Jelf chief executive Alex Alway hit the headlines earlier this year when news emerged that he and the rest of the board had awarded themselves a potentially lucrative share bonus deal. The package, which could be worth millions for Alway and his top team, was concluded after Jelf struck a series of successful financial deals this year, placing the firm on a sound financial footing. US private equity firm Cap Z bought out rival 3i’s stake of 27%, which, along with share placements to investors, raised £19m.
Jelf also agreed a £24m five-year bank debt facility with its bankers. The money can be used to bolster organic growth and make acquisitions. The consolidator paid high prices for companies in the boom years, racking up big debts. Jelf has used part of the proceeds from the placement to reduce debt to £16m from £24.3m.
That’s all good news, but the deals come at a price. Investors will want the share price to rise significantly and if the management fails, heads could role. The AIM market is not an easy place to grow unless investors see something exciting.
Added to this, Jelf is battling a soft market. In 2009, it recorded an operating loss of £9.7m compared with £5.7m the year before, as the wealth management business underperformed.
However, the company had to pay for large reorganisation costs and on a trading basis its insurance and healthcare businesses performed adequately in a tough market, while its Purple Network grew to £100m premium income.
The West Country-based business also invested in new premises, in Ringwood and Manchester. Jelf’s diverse and well-managed business is strongly positioned to take advantage of an improvement in market conditions. The main question for Alway is: will those improvements come too late? IT