Without much time to enjoy the boat he's co-owned for several years, Seamus Tivnan resigned his post as head of the office at Marsh Management Services Cayman and signed on with a smaller, independent captive management firm.
As a director at Strategic Risk Solutions in Cayman, Tivnan went from an office of 40-plus personnel to an office--in the same building--of six. At first glance, it might seem like a step down to vacate the high-profile job he's held for eight years at a global firm.
"The downside--if there is a downside--would be a blow to your ego because you had a label of a large Marsh or an Aon and now you've got a smaller name that some people may not have heard of before," said Tivnan.
But he admitted that some in the industry may not view tossing away his Marsh business cards as such a sad event, considering the pressures on Marsh in recent years.
Mostly, what Tivnan sees in the change are the positives to joining SRS. He said that working for an independent firm means decisions can be made locally, without having to report to a large head office in, say, Chicago or New York as you would have to do with the large brokerage-related firms.
The company is there to service its clients, take care of its employees and make sure everyone is working toward a common goal.
"It's controlling not so much your own destiny but the destiny of your colleagues so that they're fully rewarded for the effort that they put in, and you build a stronger team, and with that you're happy and they're happy and your clients are constantly happier," he said.
Perhaps the greatest plus to joining Strategic Risk Solutions is the team Tivnan will be a part of. He and his co-directors, Ron Sulisz and Wayne Cowan, are quite familiar with one another.
On an island of 76 square miles in the western Caribbean, home to less than 50,000 residents, the captive insurance community is a bit incestuous. Executives like Tivnan may leave one firm but always seem to quickly join another in the same tight-knit community.
Cowan was running Johnson & Higgins in Cayman when Tivnan worked a five-year stint for the company in the early 90s, and the two came together through its merger with Marsh. Sulisz came to work for HSBC in Cayman in 1996, the year Tivnan joined Marsh, and Tivnan hired Sulisz five years later when Marsh named him head of office for Cayman operations. Cowan joined SRS almost three years ago, and Sulisz came on board a year and a half ago.
Even when they weren't working at the same firm, the men kept in close contact. Being on such a small island, it's hard not to run into the same people at restaurants, office buildings and industry events. All men are involved with the Insurance Managers Association of Cayman, with Tivnan a recent past chairman and Sulisz the current vice-chairman. Tivnan and Sulisz worked together closely on last year's Cayman Captive Forum, as they are again this year.
"To me, the real benefit of moving to somewhere like SRS is getting to work with two people I've worked with previously, Ron Sulisz and Wayne Cowan, who I very much hold in the very highest regard, and so do their clients," said Tivnan.
Tivnan said he doesn't foresee any real disagreements about business decisions in the SRS office in Cayman. As co-directors, Tivnan said the three men will operate like partners in a law firm, with their own portfolio of clients that they deal with on an ongoing basis.
The close community is why Tivnan, born, raised and educated in England, enjoys Cayman so much. (The gorgeous weather, low crime rate, pristine environment, excellent restaurants and world-class hotels don't hurt either.) He said the strength of Cayman's inhabitants was proven during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, when the community pulled together to rebuild the island.
Cayman is also the site of a niche within a niche, the healthcare industry. Healthcare companies and captives for the industry have been drawn to Cayman since the late 1970s. Tivnan said every one in three accounts the Cayman captive folks work on is healthcare related.
Currently, SRS has five new captive applications in various stages of licensure, three of which are healthcare related. Cayman still attracts a majority of healthcare captive formations because of the expertise on the island. Be it the managers, the auditors or the regulators, they're very familiar with the healthcare industry. This fact helps keep this domicile competitive with emerging onshore domiciles.
"They know what's going on, what the healthcare institutions or physicians' groups face, so when they meet and talk to a new captive prospect, the prospect is usually very impressed with the level of knowledge of their industry," said Tivnan.
Similar to the local captive management personnel, Tivnan said he sees the same faces resurface in the healthcare industry. The risk manager or chief financial officer of one health institution may spend 15 years in his position and leave to go to another healthcare company. It's those people Tivnan has known for the life of his career whom he worries about impacting with his departure from Marsh.
"It's always difficult when you've been somewhere for so long. Some people in the office I've known for 18 years," he said. "You get to build up tremendous professional respect for them, but you also have personal and friendship relationships. Also, there are the clients. It's always difficult, and you can feel as though you are letting them down by walking away from the head of office position."
"At this point in time I just felt it was something I had to do," he said.
While he may not have elaborated more on the circumstances of his departure from Marsh, Tivnan said staying in touch with people won't be an issue.
"Really, you can't get away from them," he said. "The office building that we're in houses Global Captive Management as well as Marsh, so I'll see people on a daily basis. It's a small island."
So he pretty much had to leave on good terms?
"Yeah, or they'd be throwing eggs at me," he joked.
ERIN GAZICA is associate editor of Risk & Insurance®.
(Read the rest of the People on the Move newsletter from April 9.)
April 9, 2008
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