Willis’s Scope bullish on Bermuda
It has been a busy first year for Paul Scope, who took the reins of Willis Bermuda last April.
The parent company has since been involved in two significant mergers and is now known as Willis Towers Watson.
At a local level, the company is undergoing a number of changes as Mr Scope strengthens the team that oversees Willis Towers Watson's risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance business on the island.
During the past 12 months he has also taken up a number of appointments on committees and industry groups, while continuing to help young Bermudians seeking career paths in professional football in the UK and US.
Taking stock of his first year at Willis, Mr Scope said: “We have improved the quality of the teams here more than I thought we could in the space of a year.”
A reason for this was the hiring of key personnel which he had not expected to have been able to attract so quickly.
“We have taken advantage of that, and quality attracts quality.”
The first hire was Mike Fisher, a former managing director of Marsh and most recently with Integro Insurance Brokers, where he was managing principal of the Bermuda office. His appointment was announced in December, although it takes effect next month. He will head up the casualty insurance division.
Getting Mr Fisher on board sent a positive message about Willis and its ambitions, said Mr Scope.
The company has also attracted, among others, Chris Rafferty from Aon Bermuda, Trevor Ferguson from Allied World Assurance, and Wendy Percy, who formerly worked at Clarien Bank.
Mr Rafferty jointly leads the property practice with Chris Watson, who has been promoted to senior vice-president. Jessica Zuiker also has a key role in property, while Michael-Jay Landy and Andrea Arias have been promoted to leading roles in the casualty practice.
In total there were nine new hires in 2015, all either Bermudians or having the right to work on the island without the need for a work permit. Two entry positions have also been filled by Bermudians.
“It has made us much stronger and we have been able to promote a few Bermudians,” said Mr Scope.
During the past year, Willis Group, as it was previously known, has been involved in two mergers. One was with Gras Savoye, the largest broker in France. Willis acquired the remaining 70 per cent of the company that it did not own to finalise that transaction at the end of 2015. The merger boosted Willis's presence in Western Europe and Africa, where Gras Savoye is a major player.
At the same time, Willis completed its merger with Towers Watson, a deal valued at $18 billion, that resulted in the formation of Willis Towers Watson.
“We doubled in size. It made us the largest retail broker,” said Mr Scope.
The company has opted to maintain a seamless structure encompassing its divisions, that include insurance brokerage, advisory services and multinational risk management.
“It provides a unique opportunity to the client,” said Mr Scope, explaining that a customer would not need to go hunting around to locate the service they need. Since joining the company he has concentrated much of his focus on the reinsurance division.
“We have had good growth in a tough market. The reinsurance area continues to thrive. From my point of view it could not get better. In captives we have a new leader, Nick Warren.”
Mr Warren joined the company from Marsh IAS Management Services in Bermuda.
A further development for the company has been the formation of a charities committee, which has made donations to a number of organisations, including the Family Centre, WindReach, Alpha Phi Alpha Beautillion and the Relay for Life. Employees also wanted to “pay it forward” and have chosen two further initiatives, forming a community partnership with the Port Royal Primary School, and securing a SCARS awareness programme for employees.
Mr Scope keeps a keen eye on Bermuda's insurance and reinsurance sector and said XL Group's redomiciling from Ireland to Bermuda was a boost for the island.
“Ireland was flavour of the month for a while. XL Catlin has made the right choice and hopefully that sends a message to other companies.
“We are a quality jurisdiction and we are transparent. I hope it is a harbinger of things to come.”
Some people have wondered if Chubb, fresh from its $29.7 billion merger with Ace, might also look to Bermuda for its future anchorage.
Mr Scope said he would not hesitate to recommend Bermuda if Evan Greenberg, the CEO of Chubb, was to ask the question.
Mr Scope has been invited to be deputy chairman of the Bermuda Government's External Affairs Strategy Committee. The new committee is gearing up for its first meeting and has a mission to create a first-class, foreign-relations framework supporting jobs growth, foreign-exchange income and boosting the island's gross domestic product through bilateral relations, trade development and risk management. Full and continuous employment of Bermudians is a major goal.
“The external affairs strategy is a way to keep tabs on external business coming in,” said Mr Scope, who believes there is a trend to turn internal government departments into authorities, such as has happened with the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
Elsewhere, he has been elected to the board of the Association of Bermuda International Companies and appointed chairman of the Bermuda Insurance and Reinsurance Brokers Association. The latter role is an interesting development, because the BIRBA has been inactive for a number of years, despite being in existence for at least 25 years.
Mr Scope said a number of the needs of brokers are served through organisations such as Abic and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers.
However, he said brokers have recognised there is also a need to get together with greater frequency and have a representative organisation that is “good for use” should it be needed, such as in a lobbying role.
Growing business in Bermuda is something he has a keen interest in. He is on the board of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, with responsibility for shipping and risk.
Speaking about the island's current and future economic fortunes, he said: “I'm slightly encouraged. I still feel we have a lot of lifting to do; we are not always going in the same direction. But despite everything we have a great reputation around the world as a high-quality jurisdiction.
“We work very well [promoting the island] when we are out of Bermuda; there is no comparison, and that's a tremendous advantage that we have. We are seeing new business coming.”
He noted an improvement in tourism numbers, and he believes the 2017 America's Cup will be a huge opportunity in terms of global exposure for the island.
Away from the office, he continues to assist Bermudian footballers with their careers.
In his younger days Mr Scope had aspirations to be a professional footballer, and did play in the fifth tier of English football with Conference side Gateshead. He has maintained a keen interest in the sport and was involved in the Bermuda National Team and was a co-founder of the Bermuda Hogges team that played in the USL Premier League. The Hogges acted as a springboard for the likes of Nahki Wells, who now plays with Huddersfield Town.
Mr Scope has a close relationship with English non-league team Ilkeston FC, where about 14 players from Bermuda have played before progressing to other clubs.
Mr Scope said there is a house near the club that has acted as a base for Bermudians to stay while they are finding their feet with the club. “It's a great stepping stone and it's at a level where they should be able to progress.”
Ilkeston is also prominent on the radar of talent scouts looking for players to sign with bigger clubs.
Regarding star player Mr Wells, he believes the Bermudian striker will be playing in the English Premier League “very soon”.
There are many things jockeying for attention in his business and professional life, and that's how Mr Scope likes it.
“I've always enjoyed being busy. I become more efficient when I'm busy,” he explained.
“It helps having a great team behind you.”
He believes that Wills Towers Watson's operations in Bermuda have been strengthened in the past year, particularly as a result of the aforementioned appointments, and the addition of Michael Jenkins and Layton Outerbridge as senior vice-presidents.
Mr Scope has almost 40 years of experience in the industry, and shares that knowledge with his colleagues, helping to guide them.
He still enjoys the ever-changing aspects of the business. “It's a fascinating industry and you have to be up on current affairs. It is a fantastic business to be in.”