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Q&A: Ron Lockton, Lockton Cos. L.L.C.

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Ron Lockton was recently appointed vice chairman of insurance broker Lockton Cos. L.L.C. Before that, Mr. Lockton was president of Lockton's property/casualty operations in Kansas City, Missouri, and previously worked at Aetna Inc. as a casualty underwriter. He recently spoke with Business Insurance Editorial Assistant Joyce Famakinwa to discuss his new role and the future of the brokerage industry. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: What can you say about Lockton's succession plan?

A: Obviously we are a privately held company, so we can't get into the details of our succession plan, but ... I see it as an ever growing process, and Lockton's fortunate to have a lot of young talent in important positions. Certainly the formalization of me becoming vice chairman is one step in that process.

Q: How old were you when you took your first job at Lockton, and what did you learn from that experience?

A: When I was 19, I began working here at Lockton as a summer intern. It was the summer after my freshman year of college. My brother was in the mailroom, and I was a file clerk in the claims department. It was a good experience, I enjoyed it. It was really my first experience working closely with Lockton and associates. I got an upfront seat to learn about the Lockton culture. Claims is a great place to learn about the business: It's sort of where the rubber meets the road.

Q: What do you see for the future of the brokerage industry?

A: A couple of points come to mind. I think we will see on the brokerage side of business certainly some continued consolidation. There is probably going to be some expansion in sources of capital available for taking risks, so it will be an interesting dynamic. I think risk managers and insurance buyers will have fewer brokerage choices but they will have a lot of options when it comes to ways to transfer risk.

This is a knowledge-based business; I think the successful broker in the future is going to have to be smart, have a lot of resources, be a student of the business and really be able to serve their clients with all of those attributes.

Q: What is the best part of what you get to do every day?

A: All of the key decision makers in our company and certainly all of the shareholders have day-to-day client responsibilities. That has always been a part of what I have done whether I was president or whether I was transitioning into our holding company.

Over the last year I have been working on projects and working closely with our chairman, David Lockton (Ron's uncle), and learning about strategies and what it takes to operate a global business at same time working with clients.

I think the best part of what I do is being able to be close to the business in terms of what we do, which is focus on and service clients, and at the same time have a seat at the table where we are making important decisions about how to move the business forward.

It's a really unique thing in the brokerage world. You don't very often see key executives that also handle client relationships on a day to day basis.

Q: Why is it important to have a succession plan now, and what advice do you have for other organizations when it comes to this?

A:I don't have a crystal ball, and we are certainly not business succession experts but we do have a little bit of experience with it. In 1998 my father (Jack Lockton) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and we had to move very quickly and make a lot of decisions about succession sort of in a forced manner. The biggest thing we learned there is that it's awfully nice to take your time and that ... succession planning is really important.

Q: What do you feel you bring to this role?

A: As an owner of the company, I feel my appointment to vice chairman speaks volumes about our family's commitment to our business remaining a private enterprise. To have a Lockton in our succession plan at a high level makes a statement that we are ... in this for the long run.