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Q&A: Dominic Burke, Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group P.L.C.

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Dominic Burke has been group CEO of London-based Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group P.L.C. since December 2005. He previously was chief operating officer of the brokerage he joined in 2000 when the Burke Ford Group of Cos., which he co-founded, became part of JLT. JLT's growth continued in 2013 with its purchase of the reinsurance brokerage business of Towers Watson & Co. This summer, JLT expanded its U.S. specialty brokerage business and made several high-profile hires. In a recent conversation with Business Insurance Senior Editor Sarah Veysey, Mr. Burke discussed JLT's recent moves and outlook for the future. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: Why did you decide now was the time to expand your U.S. specialty brokerage operations?

A: We have established a business of scale and reputation and capability in the classes in which we wish to be a player, and the United States remained the outstanding question. When we announced the Towers Watson acquisition at the end of 2013, clearly JLT's brand was back in the United States in a meaningful way.

In the latter half of 2013 and the spring of 2014, we were in the position of attracting leadership talent that wanted to be part of the JLT story. And when you are afforded the opportunity to talk to leadership of that quality — Patrick Donnelly, previously chief broking officer of U.S. retail at Aon P.L.C., Jim Pierce, previously chairman of Marsh L.L.C.'s global industry practice, and Michael Rice, previously CEO of Aon's financial services group, leaders who are aligned to our client-focused, entrepreneurial spirit — then it makes sense to move quickly.

We needed to build a business that was in keeping with our culture, our analytical approach and entrepreneurial spirit, so the concept of acquiring something was pretty quickly dismissed because we didn't think there was someone we could buy with the right values and scale and focus on our specialty areas — namely oil and gas, energy, aviation, financial lines, and credit and political risk.

There is a situation where we are going into the back yards of some of our competitors with the intention of taking their best people and bringing them to a place where their role is celebrated.

Q: How do you ensure that you retain your culture in a company that is growing?

A: Be clear. Articulate. Celebrate those cultural values.

I think that it continues to get easier, not harder, because the people who are joining us want to join a culture that puts the clients first and where they as brokers can fulfill their ambitions to serve clients and not serve up a precooked, commoditized solution.

I am very encouraged by what I see from the almost 50 colleagues that are joining us.

Q: What will be the advantages for your clients of this increased U.S. specialty presence?

A: In my visits to the United States and meetings with senior personnel at insurers and clients, there has been a resounding sense of welcome and congratulations. It provides choice, of course.

I'm not so sure that specialty figures at the heart of what some of our competitors seek to do, whereas at JLT we have put specialty at the very center.

JLT has a real reputation in this space; it just wasn't previously available to U.S. corporates. It is now.

Q: How is the integration of JLT Re going?

A: It is a work in progress. We are pleased with the talent we acquired and the new talent we are attracting.

We have work to do in building out that business. And now we have the leadership of that business positioned to take us through the next phase. In August, JLT announced the appointment of Mike Reynolds, group finance director, as global CEO of JLT Re.

I think we have the right balance of skills to take advantage of the scale of the opportunity we saw at the time of that acquisition. I am energized by the pipeline of opportunities and the fact that JLT Re has been so well-received.