Miller Fisher will forge ahead in new business areas and win back panel positions following its £13.2m deal with the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), new chief executive Malcolm Hughes has confidently predicted.

Hughes gave his first interview as chief executive to Insurance Times, immediately after the deal was announced on 6 December.

HBOS has paid £13.25m for 13.25 million convertible redeemable preference shares in Miller Fisher.

The shares will be issued at £1 each and will be convertible until 2017 into 164 million new ordinary shares of 5p each, representing 49.9% of Miller Fisher's enlarged share capital.

Miller Fisher had a bank debt of about £24.7m but the money will allow it to reduce the debt and leave £3.5m in working capital.

It will immediately cut the annual cost of servicing its debts from £2m to £1m.

The deal coincided with Kevin Kenny stepping down as chief executive, to be replaced by Hughes, who will divide his time between London and his home in Dublin.

Kenny will retire as a director of Miller Fisher at the end of the month and chairman Sir Timothy Kitson will retire at the end of March 2002.

Tom Anderson, already chief operating officer, will become a board director. Richard Horton will remain finance director.

Hughes emphatically denied rumours of a failed UK management buy-out, which had circulated for some time but became rife after last week's announcement.

"I can tell you there hasn't been an offer of MBO," he said

He said no immediate management changes were planned.

Hughes, who was previously international operations director, said the HBOS deal would solve many of the problems that had plagued Miller Fisher over the past year.

He said: "The company has pursued other opportunities over the past 12 months and we considered this deal the best for the company's future.

"The whole idea of this is to secure the company and provide increased shareholder value."

Hughes added that the company' s financial uncertainty had led to it being dropped from insurer panels and made other companies reluctant to enter into long-term deals.

"The biggest issue was the uncertainty in the market but that's no longer a reason not to do business," he said.

Hughes said Miller Fisher would pursue more third party administration business in both the UK and Ireland.

"Nobody else has the full breadth of services we have and now we have to deliver them to the market," he said.

"Insurers are seriously examining their whole claims spend and they want value for money.

"We have to work with clients to find new ways of doing things because over the next few years there will be dramatic changes.

"Business will be won or lost on service issues and we need to build on our skill base to capitalise on that."

Hughes said the company's Irish subsidiary Miller Farrell, which accounts for 20% of Miller Fisher's turnover, would be unaffected by his new role.