JLT Re returns; Speare-Cole mulls future
Alastair Speare-Cole, the former global chief executive of reinsurance broker JLT Towers Re, could be tempted by a move into the underwriting side of the industry, he has told Monte Carlo Today.
Speare-Cole is in Monte Carlo this week facilitating a transition to the broker’s new leadership team of Mike Reynolds, the group finance director who replaces him as CEO, and Ross Howard, who remains chairman.
Speare-Cole said he felt he has achieved what he set out to do with the broker: making it a viable alternative to the big three reinsurance brokers. Having recruited Reynolds from Aon Benfield, he said he felt the time was right for him to take a step back and let others take the operation forward.
“We had achieved our goal of making JLT a credible alternative in the market. Once the handover is complete, I will find a new challenge,” Speare-Cole said. “It will probably not be in broking as I wouldn’t want to compete with these guys but I have always had a yen for the underwriting side.”
The broker has used the Monte Carlo Rendez-Vous this year to announce it is returning to its old brand of JLT Re—five months before it originally planned. Part of the deal when it acquired the reinsurance brokerage of Towers Watson late last year was that it could continue to use the Towers name for 15 months.
Speare-Cole said this was put in place because it believed the Towers brand would have leverage in the US marketplace. “In actual fact, we have discovered the JLT brand is stronger in that market than we thought. On that basis, we decided to do it early and go into the next renewals with that name.”
The integration of the two companies had gone very well over the past year, he said, with very strong potential for growth for the broker in the markets in which it decides to operate.
“We are not all things to all people and we have no desire to be, but in the markets in which we choose to play, we give clients choice,” said Speare-Cole. “Cedants have been very supportive in this regard.”
He said JLT Re tends to gain clients on two fronts: some feel under-served by the bigger brokers and become disillusioned; others use smaller brokers but have a growing need for add-on services such as modelling and analytics. “It is never easy winning clients because you are talking about very long-term relationships but there is definite demand,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference in which the JLT Re brand was re-launched, Reynolds, global chief executive officer of JLT Re, said the acquisition of the Towers Watson reinsurance business had brought a whole new range of opportunities.
“There is no question that bringing these two businesses together has opened up a new opportunity and put us in a different place. It has allowed us to have a seat at the table,” he said.
“It’s all about getting ahead of that curve and providing solutions. This is something we have been, and will be, heavily focusing on.”
Howard, the executive chairman of JLT Re, added: “There is a huge opportunity ahead of us and we are ready to take it. Our push into certain specialty lines in the US is going to give us a tremendous profile and this can only be positive for the reinsurance business.
“In today’s world, having a large book of business is not the be all and end all. You have to have people to look at different structures and ideas.”
Edward Hochberg, the global head of analytics, banking and advisory, added: “We are not going to be the McDonald’s of analytics. We’re being very careful to make sure we provide actionable and meaningful insight and information.
“We do our own thing as we offer suitable alternatives to the big shops, yet we have all the capabilities they have. There’s approximately 75 people spread across eight countries providing analytics in a way that is meant to provide our clients with actionable advice and proper insight into the business. It’s not off the shelf but tailored to our individual client needs.”