12 March 2013EMEA analysis

Willis expands European captive team

Willis announced this week that it has appointed Lesley Harding as CEO of the Willis Global Captive Practice— Europe. She will lead the European captive management and advisory team.

Harding, who worked previously as an underwriter at Swiss Re and a manager at Texaco’s captive, has also helped establish Arch’s European operations. She will report to Malcolm Cutts-Watson, chairman of Willis’s Global Captive Practice— Europe. Captive International spoke to Harding about her new role and the captive environment in Europe.

Going into your new role, what do you anticipate will be your greatest challenges? To which aspects of the job are most looking forward?

I’m fortunate enough to be building on a very firm foundation, but I see the biggest challenges lie in responding to our clients emerging needs as they face political , economic and regulatory challenges themselves, ensuring that their risk retention strategies remain relevant and economically viable. I’m most looking forward to leading a team of dedicated professionals who truly stand out amongst their peers for excellence in service delivery and strategic thinking. It is clear our clients view captives as one key option to retaining risk. We need to explain and quantify the advantages of captives versus other options, and to demonstrate optimal captive structures as we do so.

Do you have an overarching philosophy when it comes to captive management?

My overarching philosophy is that clients rely on captive managers to be proactive, to fully understand the clients risk profile and to engage at very senior levels in the organization as consultative partners in risk finance decision making. And throughout, quantification and optimisation are key.

What challenges and opportunities does Europe present in terms of captive insurance?

I think the choice of European domiciles, the operational excellence delivered by our professionals and firm but fair regulatory environments affords clients a breadth of self-funding options – of which a wholly owned captive is just one tool to minimize the cost of risk and optimize capital efficiency

Why has Willis chosen to invest in Europe, and at this particular time?

Willis is looking to bring to our European clients the very best of Willis from across our range of global specialties including captive advice. A constant area of demand by clients is assistance with refining their risk financing strategies to respond to the changing business landscape and a key part of my role will be to provide the necessary guidance. We see strong demand from European companies who are seeking to become class leaders and are looking for the insight I can bring based upon my global experience.