Axa XL’s UK head Paul Greensmith and RenaissanceRe’s chief underwriter Ross Curtis have emerged as early favourites among potential candidates to succeed Jon Hancock as director of Performance Management at Lloyd’s.
Canvassing the views of senior figures within the Lloyd’s market – including those involved in the process – 45 year-old Paul Greensmith is being repeatedly flagged as a candidate who combines many of the attributes Lloyd’s requires, including strong underwriting experience, deep knowledge of the market and a personable approach.
Looking even younger than his 45 years, Greensmith has enjoyed a flurry of promotions since joining the Catlin Group in 2015 and now heads the group’s UK operations. He is also the active underwriter of Syndicate 2003 – traditionally the largest stand-alone Lloyd’s syndicate – and is a board member of the Lloyd’s Market Association.
By coincidence, he began his career as a graduate trainee at RSA – the former home of Hancock – and the two know each other well as a consequence. According to sources, he was even being considered for the AIG chief underwriting GI role which Hancock will now shortly take up when he joins the organisation next month.
It is unclear whether the recent changes at Axa XL – the sudden replacement of group CEO Greg Hendrick with former president of Chubb’s North American commercial insurance division last month, for example – may have an effect on Greensmith’s appetite for the role.
However, Scott Gunter’s background in US commercial may suggest the London market is less of a priority for the business in the future.
Ross Curtis is only two years older than Greensmith, at 47, and has spent over twenty years at RenaissanceRe since joining the firm in 1999 as a cat modelling analyst.
Despite the vast majority of his career in Bermuda, Curtis is a British national and has a Master’s degree (Honours) in Mental Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh. He is widely admired for his intellect, underwriting acumen and personable mien. He was promoted to group chief underwriting officer at RenaissanceRe in July 2014 following the elevation of Kevin O’Donnell to group CEO.
Helpfully, he knows Lloyd’s well and was based in London while overseeing RenaissanceRe’s Lloyd’s Syndicate 1458.
However, both candidates would have to agree to a substantial pay cut to take the role, with Hancock’s total remuneration sitting at £887,000 ($1.1mn) in 2018. For Curtis, it would require moving back to the UK. He would also be an obvious internal candidate to succeed O’Donnell when he decides to step down as group CEO. Ultimately, it may depend upon whether he prefers his next step to be at the frontline of underwriting or a senior executive path instead.
The position has emerged at Lloyd’s following Hancock’s resignation in January. During his time at the Corporation, his reputation has been elevated after imposing a tough drive to raise underwriting results following a deterioration in Lloyd’s underlying results before these combined with 2017’s catastrophes to result in a £2bn loss, the worst since 9/11.
Hancock joined the Corporation in 2016 succeeding Tom Bolt and, like his predecessor, will now join AIG.
Lloyd’s is keen to find a successor as soon as possible to ensure performance management continuity and ideally in time for the mid-year “coming into line” process. Lloyd’s CEO John Neal – a former Lloyd’s underwriter himself – will lead the Performance Management Directorate in the interim period.
Lloyd’s has appointed Mark Woodhouse of executive search boutique MWM to run the process.
Other potential candidates that will be considered include senior Lloyd’s figures, namely the recently retired duo Neil Maidment and Russell Watson. Both were heads of underwriting at Beazley and Hiscox respectively and, although recently retired, both are in their fifties. In other words, they are both theoretically able if the position would tempt them.
The Insurer believes Maidment, in particular, is a potential lead candidate because of his strong reputation and experience of senior Lloyd’s roles.
Another “internal” Lloyd’s candidate is Matthew Wilson, the group CEO of Brit Insurance. Wilson was Mark Cloutier’s lieutenant when they restructured the business on behalf of its private equity owners following a 2011 buy-out. Since Cloutier’s exit, he has continued to oversee the carrier’s steady expansion while consistently beating the Lloyd’s average. Personable, he is also – like Maidment was – actively involved in the wider Lloyd’s market including as an LMA board member.
The challenge of appointing a Lloyd’s insider to the role is the perception of a conflict of interest that arises in dealings with their former firm. This is clearly an issue. However, most market figures who have spoken to The Insurer are relatively sanguine about this, pointing out that the performance management directorate has to impose objective requirements on measuring syndicates’ performance levels and capital requirements, rather than make arbitrary droit du seigneur decisions.
Another credible Lloyd’s candidate could include MAP veteran Richard Trubshaw.
Inevitably, there is a distinct lack of female representatives among the early candidates; a reflection of the industry’s current imbalance at the most senior levels of underwriting. This will no doubt change in time, but in the meantime one plausible candidate could be Axa XL’s Kelly Lyles.
An American national, Lyles is well versed in the London market through a variety of senior management roles at AIG and, more recently, Axa XL. She has also worked in Paris and the US, which gives her valuable international experience, and is a popular figure in the London market.
Speaking of the City of Lights, a left field candidate might be Victor Peignet, who retired from Scor after over thirty years with the French reinsurer. Described by one Lloyd’s Council member as the best underwriter he knows, Peignet would immediately earn the respect of Lloyd’s CEOs. But would he want the job, the challenges that go with it and, of course, the necessity of relocating?
In his sixties,The Insurer doubts it.
Fellow French national Nicolas Aubert is also a credible candidate. Also popular, Aubert is currently head of broker Willis in the UK. However, the INSEAD graduate has underwriting in his DNA, as seen throughout a career that has included AIG, Cigna and Generali. Unlike Peignet, he is already in London – living in petit-France, aka South Kensington. He is also an extremely active member of the London market, including being president of the institute and previously chair of the London Market Group.
Stepping further afield, another Bermuda executive that has been suggested by Lloyd’s insiders is John Doucette, the head of Everest Re’s reinsurance operations and former Max Re and Swiss Re New Markets executive.
Could he be tempted to Lime Street? The Insurer again doubts it but he would be a credible Hancock successor if we’re wrong – he’s highly regarded. The move would require a substantial salary cut though; a mismatch compounded further by the UK’s high tax rates compared to Bermuda’s.
Another long-shot candidate is TransRe’s head of Europe, Paul Bonny. In two years’ time, Bonny will have served 40 years at the company – an extraordinary feat. A London market veteran with a strong understanding of casualty reinsurance, he has the underwriting pedigree. But, aged 63, can he be prized away from TransRe for one last job? We doubt it.
AIG veteran Lex Baugh might also be a contender. He knows the London market well from his time heading AIG Europe and is currently acting CEO of AIG’s international general insurance operations. He has now spent over 35 years at the company and, like Bonny, has resisted the temptations to move elsewhere. Ironically, he reports into Tom Bolt, Hancock’s predecessor. However, with Hancock also following Bolt, there would be a natural symmetry were Baugh to go in the other direction.
Another potential candidate became, in theory, more available last month: former Axa XL CEO Greg Hendrick. He’s an experienced global executive, but we suspect he would regard the role as beneath him while Lloyd’s players might regard him as too US ‘middle-managery’ and not focussed enough on granular underwriting.
So, in our early book, we place Axa XL’s Paul Greensmith and RenaissanceRe’s Ross Curtis as early favourites, with former Beazley chief underwriter Neil Maidment and Brit Insurance’s Matthew Wilson as serious contenders. We will likely have a better understanding in the next month or so. Between then, expect the odds to change.
One final comment: in July 2018, The Insurer carried out a similar exercise examining potential replacements for former Lloyd’s CEO Inga Beale. We initially placed the former QBE boss at 20/1 before revealing his appointment in September 2018. This might suggest not to place too much reliance on our early runners’ bookmaking talents!
A Lloyd’s spokesperson told this publication that a shortlist has been compiled but declined to comment further at this stage.
MWM declined to comment.