Profile: Scott Egan, UK and international CEO of RSA

Scott Egan

Turning the tide: Speculation about the future of RSA has been rife in the market, but new UK and International chief executive Scott Egan tells Insurance Age he is determined to win back brokers

Around three months ago Scott Egan took over the UK and International chief executive position at RSA from former CEO Steve Lewis. Lewis left after two consecutive years of underwriting losses for the provider and Egan does not deny that he has his work cut out for him as he sets his sights on turning the tide for RSA

He admits one of his most pressing challenges is to regain the trust of the regional brokers, many of whom in recent months have said RSA is difficult to trade with and questioned what the insurer’s broker strategy is. Several brokers have expressed that they are disappointed in RSA, accusing the insurer of moving away from regional brokers towards the larger players. 

“I’m not defensive about that in any way,” Egan comments. “For me the regional broking community is a very important distribution channel for RSA. It’s our challenge to make sure that we deliver them the right products, that they understand where we want to operate, that we deliver them good service at a price that makes sense.”

RSA has recently kicked off a number of regional broker meetings where Egan plans to listen to what brokers say to better understand where the provider is going wrong. The focus is on rebuilding old relationships as well as building new ones, and, using feedback from brokers making a plan of action.

“It’s never going to be magic dust, but I want them to feel that they’re an important part of our future,” he continues.

Back to the future
But going back to where it all started, Egan grew up in Motherwell in Scotland and moved to London aged 18. After spending a few years at British Rail, where he got his accountancy training, Egan began his insurance career at Norwich Union.

“I lived in London and had two kids and we didn’t want to bring them up in the city,” he remembers. “I ended up seeking a job with Norwich Union, as it was called then. I didn’t look for them and I had no intention of living in Norwich but I saw a job there and we liked the place and the company and that was the beginning of my career in insurance.”

Scott Egan’s message to UK brokers

“What’s important to me is that I want to reinforce, and I hope it’s believable both through my background but also my actions, that you are an incredibly important distribution channel.

“I hope in 12 months’ time you’ll look back and say ‘you’re not perfect, but you’ve reinforced that through your actions and behaviours and RSA is getting back to where we knew it could be’. I have a great passion for the broker community.”

After twelve years at what eventually became Aviva, Egan moved to Zurich, starting out as UK chief financial officer and then moving on to a role in what he calls “the mothership of Zurich” in Switzerland. He states that Switzerland was a beautiful country to live and work in but because he was not able to bring his family it was also a tough time personally.

“My kids were doing GCSEs and stuff and I sometimes look back and think I didn’t quite get the full experience. It was tough and it’s a shame because I really enjoyed it in Switzerland.”

Back in the UK Egan joined Brit and not long after he was headhunted by Towergate. The consolidator had by that point been taken over by private equity and he describes his four-and-a-half years at the business, first as CFO and later as interim CEO, as a learning experience. 

The regional broking community is a very important distribution channel for RSA. It’s our challenge to make sure that we deliver them the right products

Towergate
While it has been an intense start in the new role as RSA UK&I CEO, Egan highlights he is no stranger to challenging times. He explains that bringing Towergate [now Ardonagh Group] through some of its worst troubles and out on the other side is something he looks back at with emotion.

Egan, who stepped up to the broker while the business was waiting for David Ross to arrive from Gallagher, adds: “I was the interim CEO because it was important to them that if I got them through to the other side there needed to be a change of guard and I was a hundred percent supportive of that.”

In his words nothing gives him greater pleasure than “seeing the company prosper under David Ross”. “I went through blood, sweat and tears to help them survive – there are 4,500 people there and it’s great to see it alive. Those were dark moments, but you look back and realise that’s when you learned a lot about yourself.”

Scott Egan CV 

February 2019 – present: Chief executive officer, RSA UK and International
September 2015 - February 2019: Chief financial officer, RSA Insurance 
April 2012 - September 2015: Interim CEO/CFO, Towergate Insurance 
December 2010 - April 2012: CFO, Brit Insurance
August 2009 - December 2010: Group financial controller, Zurich Insurance
December 2007 - August 2009: CFO UK, Zurich Insurance
December 2005 - December 2007:Deputy finance director, Norwich Union 
December 2003 - December 2005: Director of partnerships, Norwich Union 
August 2001 - December 2003: Director of finance business partners, Norwich Union
August 1995 - August 2001: Various Norwich Union finance roles

Scott Egan

Keep on running
In order to stay focused and cope with the pressures of the job, Egan has been a keen runner for the past 20 years. “Everyone thinks I’m a lunatic, but I get up at 5am every morning and go for a run in the dark country lanes of Essex or to the gym. 

“It’s not that I’m trying to be super fit but that’s my time when I don’t have a phone and I don’t have anyone in my ear and I listen to the radio and clear my head.”

Egan, who is passionate about cars and took part in motor racing until his early twenties, also describes himself as a football nut. But despite his Scottish background he has a particular passion for Tottenham Hotspur. 

In addition to his somewhat strict exercise regime, the CEO spends a lot of time with his family while not at work. “My kids are older but we still go on holiday together – I was hoping by now my holiday cost would have reduced, but it’s becoming more expensive and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he adds. Before fully moving from the chief financial officer role at RSA to that of CEO, Egan took his family on a five day holiday in Dubai.

But focusing on the task now at hand, Egan confirms he is enjoying his new job. “I come into work every day with a smile on my face and am absolutely up for the challenge,” he continues. “I wouldn’t have taken on the role if I wasn’t passionate about the brand and its potential.” 

I come into work every day with a smile on my face and am absolutely up for the challenge… I wouldn’t have taken on the role if I wasn’t passionate about the brand and its potential

While he accepts that a lot of comments from brokers have been negative, he insists that the provider has also received positive feedback.

“When you get under the skin of it you realise that there are some things we need to fix and where there’s no question we’re not good enough, but there’s a bunch of stuff that we’re incredibly proud of and that we’re doing incredibly well at,” he continues.

“The key is to protect the things that are going well and address the things that aren’t but there are some gems we can build on. I’m hoping that my passion and excitement is infectious.”

Is RSA pulling out of more business lines?

In November last year RSA announced it would exit around 50% of its London market business, including its international construction, international freight and fixed price marine protection and indemnity business lines with immediate effect or at contract expiry.

When asked whether the provider would be pulling out of any more business lines in the near future, Egan stated: “Any new CEO coming into a business has the opportunity to stand back and really understand where we’re operating and why and make sure that’s consistent with where we want to take the business. 

“I need to make sure I’m happy with where the line has been drawn and will need a little bit of time to ensure I’m happy with where we’re operating.”

Back to basics
And it is clear that Egan is keen to take action and make the necessary changes as soon as possible. “We can get overly strategic with these things,” he stresses. “Yes there’ll be things we can do, but let’s get back to the basics again with good service, clarity of our underwriting footprint and technology that works. I don’t think you have to sit for seven months in a dark room worrying about strategy.”

Outlining his top three priorities for the near future, Egan lists following through on the decision to exit a number of business lines in the London market (see box) and doing it “cleanly and well”, as well as taking a number of underwriting actions. “We’re not going to go from the losses we have to market leader in profitability but 2019 for us has to be about restoring credibility through more skillful underwriting.”

His third priority is customers, including brokers, and staff. “It’s been a tough few years for our staff, something that I’m very aware of and I want to deliver on some of the things that are important to them. You can’t beat getting out there and meeting the teams.”

Finally, following the losses and decisions to move away from certain lines of business, RSA has been surrounded by rumours it is gearing up for a sale. But Egan vigorously denies that this is on the cards. “We are not in any way driving or structuring this company either strategically or operationally for a sale,” he concludes.

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