Hopwood on being owned by Marsh, restructuring the networks division and why he wants brokers to remain independent.
After failing the medical to become a pilot in the Royal Airforce, David Hopwood took the only logical next step – he embarked on a career in insurance.
Hopwood’s first job was with Royal Insurance and in 1989 he moved to Layton Blackham, a small broker in London’s West End.
“There were five of us back in 1989 and in 2007 we’d built that business to a 300 people business, through a combination of acquisition and organic growth,” he remembers.
The company was bought by Axa in 2007 and, along with broker Stuart Alexander, the forerunner to Bluefin was formed.
Fast-forward to 2018 and Hopwood has firmly landed in his current role as head of Marsh Networks.
Axa sold Bluefin to the broking giant in January 2017 and Hopwood notes that being owned by a broker contrasts with being owned by an insurer.
“The stark difference is that the Marsh approach is absolutely that the customer is at the forefront of everything you do,” he explains.
“Of course that was important and part of the psyche of the business at Axa, but there was also more inward-looking from a business perspective. There wasn’t so much focus on the customer as perhaps it should have been.”
In the relatively short period of two years that we’ve been involved with Marsh you can see nothing ever stands still for a second
But there are more subtle differences as well, and Hopwood points out the fact that Marsh is an American business while Axa is French.
“This is a much more dynamic business, which we felt the day after we moved in,” he continues. “They’ve got very clear plans where they want to go, what they want to do and in the relatively short period of two years that we’ve been involved with Marsh you can see nothing ever stands still for a second.”
One example of this is Marsh & McLennan’s $5.6bn (£4.3bn) deal to buy Jardine Lloyd Thompson in September 2018.
According to Hopwood his area of the business will not be directly impacted as JLT did not own a network, but he is positive that the transaction will open up opportunities for the networks and their members to access JLT’s specialisms.
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