By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor
Let's dispense with the clichés about the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning. Let's just say that FM Global's long-time Executive Vice President Ruud H. Bosman has been kicked upstairs, and for a good cause.
"Senior leader," "elder statesman," "wizened veteran," "coach," "counsel" or, simply, "the Dutchman"--call him what you will, Bosman will be the company's new vice chairman beginning Jan. 1. As such, he will be delegating his previous authority to two new executive vice presidents, Jonathan W. Hall, senior vice president of the underwriting and reinsurance division, and Thomas A. Lawson, senior vice president of FM Global's underwriting and research division.
"The current executive group is in its late career, to put it nicely," said Bosman, who will be training Hall and Lawson in the finer points of managing a global enterprise.
In what company executives say is the beginning of a transition to a younger generation of managers, Bosman is ceding responsibilities that include corporate engineering, claims, research, underwriting, marketing and training.
He will retain responsibility for the company's foreign operations, however. Other major changes at the company announced Oct. 1 include the retirement of Executive Vice President Brian J. Hurley, a 38-year veteran of the firm.
Bosman, who called the executive changes "a succession-planning exercise," said the younger executives are all in their late 40's and early 50's and still have 10 or 15 years of service in front of them.
"And within that picture, I think my role is to really help that next generation and coach them through doing their jobs well going forward and sharing my wisdom and, in the process, help shape them to run the business," he said.
He would know. He was one of the "three kings" of FM Global's senior management team, along with Hurley and CEO Shivan Subramaniam, who ran the company since 1999, when it was fused from the merger of Allendale Mutual Insurance Co. of Johnston, R.I.; Arkwright Mutual Insurance Co. of Waltham, Mass.; and Protection Mutual Insurance Co. of Park Ridge, Ill.
The three companies had themselves been forged out of a collection of 42 separate mutual insurance companies over the previous 80 years.
Bosman, who joined Allendale from London in 1985, said he's most proud of having executed the merger of the three mutual carriers into FM Global in 1999. His only regret is that they weren't merged into a single company sooner.
The merger released new energy within the FM Global system that previously wasn't available because of the constricting nature of joint ventures.
"The merger allowed the opportunity to significantly rationalize that and really re-establish FM Global as a more competitive entity," he said. "But most importantly--and I'm not even sure we realized that at the time--that through becoming a single organization, we became much more capable of understanding and meeting clients' needs in terms of product design, in terms of how we delivered our engineering, which previously had been a joint-venture activity."
At the time of the merger, FM Global had revenues of about $1 billion. The company finished 2007 with a surplus of $6.3 billion, up 21.5 percent from the year-earlier period. A larger percentage of the firm's revenue is being generated outside the United States than ever before.
Bosman said the company, as its name suggests, will continue to move from a U.S.-centric animal to a global entity. Along with the recent acquisitions of licenses in Singapore and Hong Kong, FM Global is looking to further penetrate into China.
"One of the biggest initiatives at the moment is that we're pursuing a license in China and being a licensed insurer there," said Bosman. "We've been an engineering company there for a number of years, but we today still work through a local Chinese representative company to issue the paper."
It's cracking those huge new markets where Bosman's knowledge and expertise are expected to serve the company well, and why there's no telling how long he'll stay as vice chairman.
(Read the rest of the Oct. 8 People on the Move e-newsletter.)
October 8, 2008
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