Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Picking the best pays off for a changing insurance business
Wednesday 02 June 1999
Group Chief Executive
Royal and Sun Alliance
THE INDUSTRY is changing radically and some companies are taking innovative approaches to the business of insurance. There are five or six global players defining a different industry from the old one; companies like Allied Zurich and AXA. Ralph Huppi from Allied Zurich financial group has identified a series of changes and is running his business as a global enterprise with good people on a local level. To go a little further afield, there is Rominy Ayre of Hartford who is running a very good very efficient business in the US and among our competition, they give us the hardest time. We are now looking at the industry becoming a global financial company and there aren't that many companies capable at the moment of playing a global game. People like Huppi and Claude Bebear of AXA are looking at the industry on a global basis. On a local level, each company tends to do its own thing with competent people. But the thing is, insurance is becoming a non- country specific industry. Customers are found all over the world and the competitors I worry most about are those of tomorrow and not today's.
Independent Insurance Group
The industry in the UK is generally a shambles and I feel cynical about it. None of the lessons of the late 1980s and early 90s seem to have been learned. But one man does stand out and that's Bob Scott of CGU. He understands the importance of underwriting and combines that with a very good marketing strategy. This is one reasons he's come out as top dog in the General Accident, Commercial Union merger. I admire his focus on underwriting and distribution strategy. Others I admire include Claude Bebear of AXA and Peter Wood of Direct Line who managed to change the means of distribution within the industry. It completely changed things. He's in the States trying to set something similar up there.
Clerical Medical Investment Group
My market leader is Peter Davis of the Pru. He has always had a very clear strategy. I worked with him at Reed and he produced very good returns there with his un- usually clear strategy. It is certainly good news that we have a strategist at the head of our largest insurance company. The policies are quite high- risk but it has a very good image and excellent leadership.
Group Chief Executive
Sun Life Provincial Holdings
I am a great admirer of Michael Bright of Independent insurance. By focusing on corporate middlemarket in the UK, he has created a firm which has worked very well on behalf of the shareholder. Then there is also Peter Wood who founded Direct Line. He has been one of the most influential people in insurance over the last decade - 85 per cent of insurance is now bought over the telephone, probably as a consequence of his work with Direct Line. It violently shook up the industry and rationalised it and the costs it had to carry. It really is a stunning achievement when you can point to the individual rather than the business. What these two chaps have in common is the relentlessness of their approach - they persist and persist and persist.
Group Chief Executive
I most admire Peter Wood for his drive and commitment to a vision which revolutionised the selling of insurance in the UK.
The great success of Direct Line has gone on to change the financial services industry through the world. The key to success in this business is to constantly challenge current practices and constantly seek improvements. Direct Line has found time and again that improved service also leads to cost reductions in a virtuous circle, where customers and shareholders benefit.
Sir Peter Davis of Prudential Corporation and Les Owen of AXA Sun Life both stand out in the industry at the moment. I admire Les Owen for driving consumer-focused financial services forward at the moment the industry is going through a rapid evolution to become a more consumer-focused on. He seems to be achieving what I'd expect a successful business leader to achieve. Peter Davis I admire because he constantly brings a new perspective to the industry. He is clearly focused on the development of brands which is of growing importance. He will be seen to have achieved a lot in those terms.
David Prosser of Legal and General particularly stands out for me. I admire his success in repositioning Legal and General with the flexibility to meet product and distribution needs. His brand is in a successful position and it offers good value with keen prices. This is evidenced by the rapid growth in his business. David also appears to thoroughly enjoy his profession and provides leadership for this sector. Legal and General has successfully changed itself in response to market changes and the key has been in distribution. David has masterminded the changes in a very short space of time.
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