25 years of profitable growth and inspiration
“Sorry America. Your insurance has been cancelled,” ran the headline of a cover story in Time magazine on 24 March 1986. The article described a “national crisis” in liability insurance following “years of eye-popping damage awards".
Some might have found it an alarming time to establish a Lloyd’s managing agency focusing on US professional liability business and catastrophe treaty reinsurance. But Andrew Beazley and Nick Furlonge (supported by Robert Hiscox, who backed the new managing agency) saw an opportunity.
Twenty five years later, their confidence has proved justified. Between 1986 (when the stamp capacity of Beazley syndicate 623 at Lloyd’s was $13.4 million) and 2010 (when Beazley group underwrote $1.74 billion in gross premiums) the business has achieved an unbroken record of profitability. In 1986, Andrew Beazley underwrote the syndicate’s first professional liability policies for US lawyers and for architects and engineers. Today, Beazley insures almost half of the top 100 law firms in the US and almost two thirds of the top 50 architectural and engineering design firms.
Andrew led the company for 22 years before handing over to Andrew Horton in 2008. His ambition for the company grew as new opportunities arose but his vision – to maintain Beazley as the most attractive home for the most talented underwriters and claims professionals in the insurance business – never changed.
The early growth and diversification took place against a backdrop of often extreme turbulence for the insurance industry. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Lloyd’s market was shaken to its foundations by the combined impact of long tail liabilities for risks such as asbestosis and pollution cleanup and more recent catastrophes such as the Piper Alpha North Sea oil rig explosion in 1988 and hurricane Hugo in 1989. Andrew Beazley served as a member of the Lloyd's Market Board from 1994 to 1997, during which time the market responded to some of the heaviest losses in its history with radical reforms including the creation of Equitas to reinsure liabilities from earlier years.
Throughout this time, Beazley underwriters traveled constantly to the US – then as now Lloyd’s largest market – to talk with clients and brokers about the challenges Lloyd’s faced and its plans to overcome them. At a time when the Lloyd’s market was unrated by the credit rating agencies, the personal credibility of Andrew Beazley and his colleagues was important in maintaining confidence in Lloyd’s.
Later, Andrew was a member of the Chairman's Strategy Group at Lloyd’s, which set down a blueprint for further reforms including the creation of the Franchise Board in 2003. With the oversight of the Franchise Board, Lloyd’s has enjoyed the most profitable period in its history.
In the early years of the 21st century, Andrew championed the most significant strategic move the company had made since its foundation, leading it to expand locally into the US market from 2005. As before, the vision was consistent – to apply to small and mid-sized US business the same entrepreneurial underwriting approach, in the same lines of business, that had succeeded for large risks in London.
Expansion in the US market was a risk in its own right. Beazley was the first Lloyd’s-based insurer to obtain a licence to underwrite insurance on an admitted basis in all 50 US states. This bold move has paid off, with Beazley's US offices writing gross premiums (both admitted and non admitted) of $393.6m locally in the US in 2010, nearly a quarter of the group’s total premiums.
To his friends and colleagues at Beazley, Andrew Beazley’s contribution to the company that he led as chief executive for 22 years can never be measured solely by numbers. He created an entrepreneurial firm with a culture that proved a magnet for talent in London and around the world – a company that was as unstuffy and stylish as its chief executive. His inimitable humour, charisma and style will be remembered by all who knew him. With Nick Furlonge, Andrew pioneered open plan offices at Beazley at a time when most London market insurance executives were cloistered in panelled rooms.
Andrew was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. His response was characteristic of the man. “A bump in the road” was how he described his condition to colleagues, while making plans for a smooth leadership transition. As the aggressive therapies prescribed to fight the disease took their toll on his physical appearance, Andrew dusted off his father's old bowler hat, which he wore with considerable élan.
Andrew’s contribution to Beazley group was as significant at the end of his tenure as chief executive as at the beginning. Leadership transitions can be challenging, particularly when the baton is being passed by a founder of the company whose name is also “over the door”. Andrew was staunch in his support of Andrew Horton as the company’s new chief executive from September 2008 onward, but was always careful to give him the space to redefine the role and develop his own vision for the company’s future.
Andrew Beazley died on 13 October 2010. The company that he and Nick Furlonge founded in 1986, in a small city office with two second hand desks, a battered hatstand and a borrowed computer, lives on.