Jay S. Bullock, Argo Group

Jay S. Bullock

Executing the Strategy

Editors’ Note

Jay Bullock joined Argo Group in 2008 from Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., where he was Senior Managing Director and Head of Bear Stearns’ Insurance Investment Banking Group. While at Bear Stearns, Bullock was an advisor to Argonaut Group, Argo Group’s predecessor company, on a number of transactions. Prior to joining Bear Stearns in 2000, Bullock was a managing director at First Union Securities. He is an honors graduate of Southern Methodist University and received his M.B.A. from the McColl School of Business, Queen’s College, Charlotte, N.C. Bullock also holds the designation of Certified Public Accountant.

How has the CFO role evolved and what makes someone effective in that role?

When I started here, the board wanted to make sure I knew how to keep score on the business. Today, it’s exciting to report that the CFO role is much more than that.

It requires someone who wants to be involved in influencing the strategy of the organization since much of what the CFO is responsible for will impact that strategy. The regulatory environment, solvency, rating agencies – all of this affects your ability to execute on the strategy and all of this falls under my umbrella.

Companies need to have somebody in the CFO role who shares the company vision and, as a result, is able to influence the strategy to achieve it.

How close is the working relationship among leaders at Argo?

I’ve had the benefit of watching an evolutionary process unfold. Before we acquired the company in Bermuda and bought the business in London, Mark effectively managed the company by walking around the executive floor having conversations with everyone; by the time he was back in his office, he had covered all of his direct reports for the day.

Within eight months, we went from that scenario to one where we had a business with leaders based in London, Bermuda, and in the U.S. We had to change the way we operated and create more structure than some of us were used to.

Today, we get together on a regular basis and that gives us the opportunity to interact personally with the various business leaders and maintain that real-time basis. It just takes a lot more effort. In the interim between those meetings, we continue to actively communicate and discuss progress.

Another of my roles is acting as Chair of our reinsurance committee. Reinsurance is effectively nothing more than another form of capital but, in order to effectively chair that committee, I have to understand the underlying businesses. It also requires I be closely aligned with the Chief Underwriting Officer, who influences which businesses we want to retain and which we don’t. There are many interdependencies.

What has your strategy been for creating growth?

Our growth over the past 12 years has been impressive, yet our focus has always been on finding profitable, intelligent, and sustainable areas of growth rather than merely expanding our footprint. We look for areas where, in partnership with our clients, we can grow our best existing businesses organically. We leverage the expertise we have within the company to introduce product adjacencies. Where appropriate, we also seek to make select acquisitions of businesses that have a strong strategic fit. In some instances, these acquisitions have added important strategic elements to the platform, such as the acquisition of our Lloyd’s platform in 2008.