Willis boss Scope: Insurance is a team game
The new man at the helm of Willis Bermuda is upbeat about the prospects for Bermuda.
At the start of this month Paul Scope took on the role of chairman of Willis’ risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance business on the Island. He has more than 30 years’ experience living and working on the Island and is a board member of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA), which is working to assist in attracting new business to to grow Bermuda’s economy and create new jobs.
“I’m very bullish on Bermuda. There are some headwinds, we’ve had a tougher time of late and there’s genuine unemployment here and we are having to deal with that,” he said.
“I see some green shoots. One of the things I’ve admired over the years is how adaptable Bermudians are; when tourism was declining, international business stepped in.
“While I’m bullish on most aspects of international business, we do have to be smart and look at other opportunities. The trust area and asset management area are starting to increase and burgeon — there is a lot of work being done there with the BDA. And just maintaining the momentum on insurance and reinsurance will save jobs.”
Regarding the spate of merger deals involving Bermuda insurers and reinsurers, he is thankful that Bermuda companies are looking to consolidate with one another, “because at least a strong Bermuda company will remain”, as opposed to overseas companies moving to take over Island firms and raising the likelihood of jobs going elsewhere.
“All of the merger companies have shown commitment to Bermuda. That’s why I think we’ll bounce back and start creating jobs again,” he said.
Mr Scope has had diverse involvement with the community since arriving on the Island in 1983. He has been involved in local insurance, international business and a variety of sporting endeavours. He was a founding co-owner of the Bermuda Hogges football team, and has played a role in assisting a number of young Bermudian football players to secure contracts with teams overseas.
In his new role at Willis Bermuda he is looking to grow the business and foster a collaborative set-up.
“We have insurance, reinsurance and captive lines, and they share office space here, but they’ve all been operating completely independently. There are some good regulatory reasons for some of that. My role is overseeing all of those assets and helping to grow them, and also to get them to be more collaborative and working together and seeing where there are some common opportunities, such as cross-selling.”
The teamwork ethic is close to Mr Scope’s heart, and it’s something he has carried with him since his younger days when he had aspirations to play professional football in England.
In trying to achieve that dream he played with a number of with non-league teams, most notably Conference Premier side Gateshead, in the fifth tier of English football. While his tenacity, drive and ambition were not enough to get elevate him into the professional ranks, along the way he made contacts and learned the value of dedicated teamwork.
Those values have proved rewarding in his career in the insurance and brokerage sector.
The world of insurance was something that he “fell in love with” 40 years ago, although initially he got involved because it was a less physical type of job that allowed him to travel and train as he pursued his football ambitions. He was soon enjoying the work.
“I found it interesting getting out to meet people. I was not stuck to a desk. I found I was a fairly natural salesman — nowadays, I’d call myself a networker. Sales comes naturally to me, it is what has got me progressing into this job,” he said.
“I could be equally comfortable going to a garage or a repair shop and talking to the owners and workers there — and equally I could go to a board room and be talking to the CEO and be comfortable in that environment as well.”
He worked for UK insurers Norwich Union and Eagle Star before moving to Bermuda in 1983 where he joined Harnett & Richardson providing local insurance.
“I’m very grateful for that experience because I was very much exposed to locals. For instance I was here when Hurricane Emily hit [in 1987] and went out and helped people to put tarpaulins on roofs. I inspected damage and settled their claims.”
In the mid-1980s the arrival of Ace and XL heralded the rapid expansion of international business in Bermuda.
At the time, part of Mr Scope’s job with Harnett & Richardson involved directors and officers (D&O) liability for local banks. And that, together with his previous experience of excess casualty, proved a fortuitous combination as D&O liability and excess casualty were the two products initially sold by Ace and XL.
“It was serendipity. It was a natural fit for me to be one of the first brokers into them. I was known as the D&O expert on the Island and quite quickly I got a following of independent retail brokers in the US that didn’t have offices here but wanted to access Ace and XL for the D&O insurance,” he said.
In 1989, Mr Scope set up his own independent wholesale broker, Park International. It was a success and three years later Mutual Risk Management (MRM) bought the firm. It was involved in a number of mini mergers, including one with H&H International, part of Bermuda businessman David Ezekiel’s company IAS. In 2003, when MRM was being wound up, Mr Scope and Mr Ezekiel worked with the creditors to set up IAS Park, which inherited all the brokerage subsidiaries of the MRM group. IAS Park had seven offices in eight times zones.
Private equity was used to grow the company. In 2007, the Park (Bermuda) unit was sold to JLT, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance, reinsurance and employee benefits related to advice, brokerage and associated services. Mr Scope and his team became JLT Park, and he was made chief executive officer (and chairman in 2011). “That merger grew into the leading independent wholesaler in Bermuda.”
It was only early this year that he left JLT Park to take up the opportunity with Willis Bermuda.
Sport has continued to play an important part in his life. When he came to Bermuda he played football with BAA and Vasco for a number of years, took up running and triathlon for a spell and then returned to football with Robin Hood, playing for the team until he was 49.
He has previously assisted with the Bermuda national team, and with former professional players Kyle Lightbourne and Shaun Goater he set up the Bermuda Hogges in 2006. The team played in the USL Premier League, the fourth tier of American soccer, between 2007 and 2013. Nahki Wells, now playing for Huddersfield Town in England, and Freddy Hall, a goalkeeper for Telford United, both rose through the Hogges’ ranks.
“We have continued to help the players to go overseas and get professional contracts,” said Mr Scope, who has a close relationship with English non-league team Ilkeston FC. Bermudian teenager Rai Simons, who joined Ilkeston in 2013, signed a contract this month to play for League One side Chesterfield.
Mr Scope, a dedicated supporter of Newcastle United, said: “I get a lot of joy from giving something back to football and helping young Bermudians get chances and opportunities in England through my contacts there.”
He was also involved in bringing the Island Games to Bermuda in 2013, and Mr Scope believes the team ethic, so important in sporting endeavours, brings rewards in the business environment,
“An insurance broker’s job is definitely about being a team player or team manager,” he explained. “You are only as strong as your weakest link.
“I’ve realised that I’m not that good at individual sports, but I’m very good at team sports. That’s what I have tried to bring to the workplace, because I love collaboration and working together. When somebody is having an off-day then somebody else picks them up; if someone’s having a tough time, someone else can help them with that. It’s not something I thought of or planned, but quite often I use sports analogies from my time as a football coach or player and apply them to the business, or vice versa.”
And as he settles into his role with Willis Bermuda, he is keeping that teamwork ethic alive. He said: “We have three very fine businesses. It’s about keeping them on the right path and helping to grow and collaborate.”
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