Lloyd’s Wade paid dearly for poor PR

Michael Wade has been one of the most articulate and media-friendly people around the Lloyd’s of London insurance market for more than a decade.

That is unusual because the closed world of Lloyd’s has never felt comfortable explaining itself to outsiders. The new regulatory regime and the beady eye of ratings agencies it has little choice but to accept, but the media it generally prefers to keep at bay.

Unfortunately, being too media savvy in such an atmosphere can sometimes backfire as Wade recently found to his cost. A few weeks ago, he and his board decided to try and raise money through a stock-market listing of Capital Insurance Holdings, where Wade is chairman.

He said there were too many Lloyd’s businesses that lack scale and it would be much better if the smaller ones were brought together under one corporate umbrella.

But it all went horribly wrong, and Wade now thinks this was at least in part because he briefed the Financial Times of his plans and it splashed the story on its front page. Great publicity for Wade; great story for the FT – but a horrible own goal because it caused fury among the Lloyd’s watchers at other national and trade titles.

The result was that those within Lloyd’s who opposed Wade’s plans found a ready ear for their gripes in the other papers. That led to a steady drip of one-sided negative articles. Many were unfair but they still turned potential investors against the project and, as a result, the float plan was abandoned.

Wade therefore missed the opportunity to get the funds he required for his project. It is a pity because the need is there, although that realisation might just prompt him in time to have another crack. But if there is a next time, he says ruefully, he will make sure he gets the PR right.

anthony.hilton@haynet.com

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