Blaser: Liberty changes to benefit Bermuda

  • Beneficial changes: Mitch Blaser, vice-chairman of Ironshore Bermuda

    Beneficial changes: Mitch Blaser, vice-chairman of Ironshore Bermuda

Liberty Mutual has reorganised its operations — including its Bermudian-based insurer Ironshore — to better address the needs of brokers and clients.

According to Mitch Blaser, who will assume the title of vice-chairman of Ironshore Bermuda, the changes will only benefit the island-based part of the business.

Under Liberty’s restructuring, its newly formed Global Risk Solutions will be divided into four segments, one of which is Liberty Special Markets, which will operate the group’s specialty business outside the US and Canada — including Ironshore Bermuda and Ironshore’s Pembroke Syndicate 4000 in the Lloyd’s of London market.

LSM will bring together Liberty’s and Ironshore’s specialty operations in Bermuda, South America, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe under a single management team in London.

The other three segments of GRS are National Insurance, including US large commercial lines and middle-market business, North America Specialty, the US and Canada specialty business including Ironshore’s North American components, and Global Surety, which includes surety business worldwide.

Ironshore’s management team of Steve Horton, the Iron-Starr CEO, Susan Pateras, the Bermuda chief operating officer, and Ian Smith the Bermuda property CEO, will report to Ironshore veteran Mark Wheeler, who has taken on the position of president of international markets, with responsibility for co-ordinating LSM’s international business outside the UK.

Mr Blaser, formerly CEO of Ironshore Bermuda, will assume the role of chief transformation officer of GRS, with responsibility for co-ordinating “operational excellence” efforts across the group. He will report to Dennis Langwell, president of GRS.

Mr Blaser said the changes were effectively “moving around puzzle pieces” to better serve clients and brokers.

“Ironshore Bermuda is not really changing, but the reporting line will now be to Mark Wheeler,” Mr Blaser said. “I’ll retain a Bermuda role as the vice-chairman.

“Everything will be intact, it’s not a case of being merged into something. So the starting point is that you are where you were yesterday, except the reporting line has changed.

“They get the added benefit of what Mark brings to the table from these other operations, which could bring business they haven’t seen before. It’s all additive. It’s not as if we’re taking anything anywhere else, we’re just bringing more in.”

An added bonus for Bermuda has been the island’s popularity as a venue for Liberty Mutual meetings, as an alternative to New York or Boston. “You’re less likely to get snowed in and the airfares to Bermuda are the same or less than some of those shuttle flights,” Mr Blaser said.

Ironshore Bermuda employs about 60 staff and operates from offices at 141 Front Street.

Mr Blaser expressed confidence in Mr Wheeler who, he said, had built the Pembroke syndicate into a strong business.

“Ironshore Bermuda has been a highly profitable and innovative platform and under Mark’s leadership, I’m confident that we will continue to drive new product development and expansion,” he added.

Mr Wheeler said: “I am excited to work more closely with the strong and talented teams we have in Bermuda.

“Combining our international specialty businesses creates a segment with over $1 billion of premium and helps us better meet the needs of brokers and clients by seamlessly providing a wide array of specialty products across the globe.”

In his role as GRS chief transformation officer, Mr Blaser said his focus would be “how we work together across the platforms and the geographies to make sure that we present the best operational excellence and support to our brokers and clients”.

Efficiency and communication with the market were key aspects, he added.

“The business that comes into Bermuda is largely from the US, but we also have business coming in from the UK, the Caribbean and the Asia-Pacific. All that business will still come to Bermuda, as well as other business we may attract as part of Liberty Mutual.

“A big feature of this new company structure is the cross-selling opportunity to clients who are Liberty Mutual but have not been with Ironshore. So it could bring more business to Bermuda and we have already started to see that.”

Liberty Mutual’s large balance sheet — the sixth biggest in the industry — and strong ratings were additional attractions for clients, Mr Blaser said.

As part of Liberty, Ironshore Bermuda is a US taxpayer and so is seeing no negative impact from the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what’s the advantage of having an operation in Bermuda at all?

“First, Bermuda is a vibrant marketplace and you have to be where your brokers and clients need you to be,” Mr Blaser said. “Bermuda is the third-biggest insurance marketplace in the world, so we certainly want to be here.

“The second reason is that Ironshore has got a successful, 11-year track record here, and we’ve built a great underwriting team. We’ve developed a lot of Bermudian talent and that’s part of our culture here on the island.

“The third reason is that Bermuda is a great market for innovation and speed to market and has a strong regulatory environment. So it’s a place where you can be creative and develop new products that are additive to the Liberty Mutual global business.

“The package of those three things give us a great laboratory for development that we want to continue to build on.”

Aside from his full-time job, Mr Blaser serves as a member of the Bermuda Government’s Tax Reform Commission.

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Published Mar 1, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 28, 2018 at 11:41 pm)

Blaser: Liberty changes to benefit Bermuda

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