It was in 1965 that Cooper Gay was founded in London as an independent wholesale, reinsurance and specialist retail insurance broker. Fast forward just over 50 years and the brand is no more – cast aside in favour of a revamped image as the company now known as Ed aims to ‘redefine broking’.
Rebranding such an established name – whether ultimately proven to be foolhardy or forward thinking – is unquestionably brave: a bold move and a grand statement from a company and a CEO who is not afraid to take risks.
Steve Hearn (pictured), Group CEO of Ed, took the position in November last year having joined from Willis
Group Holdings – and quickly set about making changes. As he explains in an exclusive interview with Insurance Business
, changing the brand wasn’t so much an idea as it was a necessity.
“One of the topics of conversation among the leadership team was what do we do about the brand?” he explained. “We had a plethora of brands, it wasn’t just Cooper Gay – the holding entity was Cooper Gay Swett and Crawford; the UK entity was CGNMB LLP; all sorts of derivations thereof.
“We needed to rebrand. The confusion and the plethora of brands included things we’d sold… and in some markets the brand and its perception were a legacy negative issue for us. So the easiest part was ‘we need to rebrand’ – but then it was, ‘what are we going to call ourselves?’”
Joking about the thought process, Hearn outlines how they went through the usual possibilities including: “Roman and Greek Gods that people have to Google to see what they mean, streets in and around EC3, or if we get really carried away should we name the brand after dead people?”
However, one member of the team pointed out that “it all started in 1668 with a guy called Edward Lloyd who set up a coffee shop”. And what would the modern day barista be called at such a coffee shop? Not Edward, but Ed.
“We want to be something different – our business is going to be different going forward,” commented Hearn. “We will be the global wholesaler, we will move the conflict in the business model, we have divested the retail operations, we’ve put the customer at the front of the conversation. We have one business model, one team, one reward structure – and Ed and the timing of Ed allows us to move forward with a new business model.”
Describing the rebranding as “the talk of Monte Carlo, maybe because there wasn’t much else to talk about,” Hearn admits that in some parts of the world the Cooper Gay brand carried resonance but that there was a need to move forward.
“To differentiate ourselves we needed to say goodbye to the past – the good and bad of the past,” he explained. “There are some phenomenal parts of the organisation I have inherited… but we’re a new business now.”
So what does that new business involve? Hearn has not been backwards in coming forwards about his intentions – he wants this business to be significantly different from the competition.
“I think our proposition to the customer is unique,” he suggested.
“The guys at the top of the list - their business models are riddled with conflict in my opinion. They are in retail and wholesale, their reinsurance businesses leverage the inwards premium with the customer, etc. Meanwhile, the smaller competitor doesn’t have the global reach and isn’t in those key marketplaces in the world.
“So what we are creating is an organisation that has a global head of marine located in London, an Asian head of marine located in Singapore, and the chap in Singapore reports to the global head in London, there is a global P&L, their incentive structure is aligned and they will produce and place customers within the global marketplace – so we’re not just a London wholesaler, we’re a global wholesaler. We give brokers access to the key marketplaces in the world. Our larger competitors’ business models don’t allow that to happen and our smaller competitors don’t have that capability.”
Hearn believes that the new business model will be massively advantageous to the broker – but admits it may not be for everyone.
“If you don’t want to embrace the world, if you don’t see this as the environment you want to be in, that’s OK – there are 200 other insurance brokers within 400 metres of the Lloyd’s building, help yourself,” he said.
“If you’re a broker who wants to bring your portfolio to us for a few thousand pounds more than you’re earning with your current employer and you want to trade with your mates in EC3, then don’t come. That’s not the business model.
“However, if you want to come and embrace the world and do what’s right by your customer and take advantage of the changing dynamics of the world where things will be different, then come on in.”
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