Post Blog: Andrew Torrance hits Hollywood

hollywood565

It was going to happen one day. I just didn't expect it to be like this - sudden, without fanfare and to another country.

I am of course referring to Andrew Torrance's move from Allianz Insurance in the UK to the US subsidiary Fireman's Fund; to be replaced by personal lines boss John Dye.

If this had been planned for some time it may explain why Jon was not considered for the commercial role which became a two horse race between eventual winner Simon McGinn and engineering head Neil Clutterbuck.

According to those inside and outside Allianz UK, Jon was not mooted as a successor to Chris Hanks because of his unfinished business in re-engineering the personal lines department.

The reality, given that no new personal lines CEO was unveiled yesterday, is that Jon's accession had come earlier than predicted. This is supported by the fact that Andrew will replace Lori Dickerson Fouche, who has left the role of Fireman's Fund CEO after just under two years to join Prudential.

As Allianz had to move quickly to replace Lori with someone with a track record of profitable growth at an English speaking, broker supported property and casualty specialist Andrew's record would have spoken for itself. The fact that a succession plan was already in place in the UK made the move even simple.

Andrew's departure from the UK will mean both he had former Ageas UK CEO Barry Smith have taken international roles this year after reaching a decade at the top as UK general insurer chiefs.

No small feat but it would seem 10 years is considered the threshold by which insurance bosses become stale. Although 41 consecutive quarters of sub 100% combined operating ratio profit would indicate Andrew was far from done, as Ageas' recent deal for Groupama would highlight Barry was still very much far from sleepwalking at the top.

So what will Andrew be best remembered for, other than the trademark 'comedy' ties he would often wear in the presence of journalists, and his warm and winning honesty in the face of questions?

On the M&A front his record does not compare with Smith's in that Premierline (bought in 2006) is still struggling, although Home & Legacy (acquired in 2007) has turned into a nice niche acquisition.

Otherwise, it is a tale of what ifs. It is inconceivable the business did not look at Direct Line recently, given its recent forays into boosting its personal lines presence; whilst Aviva's general insurance business - and maybe RSA's before that - must have been discussed at least once at a board level.

Two significant decisions that were taken during Andrew's rein that have left a mark on the business were the withdrawal from the life business (sold to Britannic in 2004) and the decision to drop the Cornhill brand (in 2007 just after it had celebrated its centenary).

Neither is earth-shattering, but focused the minds at the business about what it should and should not be doing; and the fact it is part of an organisation which numbers among the biggest companies of any description in the world.

Other decisions such as the Training Academy and its investment in professional development alongside its forward thinking approach to combatting fraud may not have grabbed headlines, but laid the foundations for a firm that is an employer of choice, and far from a soft touch for the casual and organised criminals.

Ultimately, Andrew lived by the maxim that "boring is sexy" and his ten year tenure has proven that you do not have to make a big splash to grow profitably.

He leaves Allianz's UK business in great shape. And the timing - with commercial boss Hanks also stepping down - could benefit the successors. Three of the top roles within the business will have new staff in situ, signalling the beginning of a new chapter.

As for Torrance. he will be moving to California to take over a firm that insured the first ‘talkies' and plays a major role in film production today. Swapping the glitz and glamour of Guildford, Pet Plan and musical instrument insurance for Hollywood, The San Francisco Bay and fine wine insurance isn't such a bad gig.

It is just a shame that Levi's have already bagged naming rights for the 49ers stadium.

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