McGavick: Award recognises XL’s team effort
Rugby fan Mike McGavick tackled the problems of ailing global business insurer XL Group head-on after he was appointed CEO nearly seven years ago.
And last night his performance was recognised with a prestigious award in New York.
But Mr McGavick, who turned out for his university rugby team, played down his role in the resurgence of the firm — and insisted the award was recognition for the work of his entire team.
Mr McGavick said: “Without question, rugby is the ultimate team game — it’s one where people of different sizes, skills and aptitudes are all valuable.
“Sport also teaches you that competition is healthy — if you treat it with respect, you can aspire to do better.”
He was speaking only hours before he was honoured with the St John’s University School of Risk Management’s 2014 Insurance Leader of the Year at a dinner in New York.
Mr McGavick said: “On a personal level, it’s a little bit embarrassing and overwhelming — but on behalf of the of the company, it’s really neat. From where we started to where we have gotten deserves recognition.”
The former star player for the University of Washington in Seattle added that the transformation of the firm since he took over as captain had captured the interest of the industry.
He said: “We started from a place where we looked like we might not survive and again we are a really well-respected competitor. It’s the product of a whole lot of people doing things right and really hard work.
“I really don’t think it’s anything I have personally done — it’s about what the group has done together. It’s really the whole journey of XL that has been recognised.”
Mr McGavick added: “The current results suggest we are back performing among the top group and I think that’s deserving of recognition.”
The award was decided before XL announced its $4 billion-plus takeover bid for Bermuda-based rival Catlin — which, if approved, will create a company with capital of $17 billion and around $10 billion of net premium, based on the value of the two firms at the end of 2013.
But Mr McGavick said the plan is “something we are able to do now because of the progress we have made.”
And he added that the Catlin group would not have backed the plans to create a massive new firm if it had not been convinced by XL’s performance over the last few years.
Mr McGavick said he was “really honoured” that industry veterans Brian Duperreault, the head of Bermuda-based Hamilton Insurance Group, and Michael O’Halleran, executive chairman of Aon Benfield and executive vice-president of Aon plc, would co-chair the awards dinner.
He said that his acceptance speech would focus on “the challenge the industry faces to innovate and stay relevant when so many changes are going on”.
And Mr McGavick said: “I also want to reflect a bit on how much more dangerous the world is and how progress must continue, even with the world being so unsettled.”
Mr McGavick took over the CEO role at XL Group in 2008, while it was reeling from the effects of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis.
He previously led Seattle-based insurance giant Safeco, which was struggling and vulnerable to takeover when he assumed the CEO’s role in 2001.
Cutting of staff, costs and lines of business put the firm back on track — and he left the firm in 2005 with a share price of $56.50 compared to the $24.56 when he started.
He later stood as a Republican candidate for the US Senate, but lost to incumbent Maria Cantwell.
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