Jay S. Bullock, Argo Group

Jay S. Bullock

The Virtuous Cycle

Editors’ Note

Jay Bullock joined Argo Group in 2008 from Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc., where he was Senior Managing Director and Head of 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, he was a managing director at First Union Securities. Bullock 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 Argo’s brand been developed?

Over the years, I have seen Argo’s reputation broaden steadily with the improving performance of the company. I think of it as a virtuous cycle in which brand awareness adds credibility to the platform which, as I see in our interactions with investors, analysts, regulators, and rating agencies, creates credibility for the company. Credibility for the company helps reinforce the brand. Because of it, a growing number of constituents now see us not just as an interesting stand-alone company or even a solid investment, but also as a legitimate industry player.

Has that attracted different talent?

Yes, in that it’s all part of the same virtuous cycle. In large part, the credibility of the organization is a reflection of the talent on the team. The credibility they help us build in turn allows us to attract better talent. This is certainly true at the senior levels of leadership. As we’ve added to the bench in the last five years, our management team has become far more visible in the industry as a whole. At any given insurance conference or event, attendees will see the Argo team. Mark Watson is not on his own anymore. And that team presence is a non-marketing reinforcement of the brand. People looking in see a coherent group of known players, all sharing a single vision of where Argo is headed and how we’re going to get there. That’s attractive for people considering a career move. We find that people are more eager to leave large, bureaucratic, challenged platforms to join a smaller, more nimble entity where they can have an impact. They’re thoughtful about the future in this changing environment, and they know they need to evolve and adapt. Argo now strikes them as a place they can do that.

How has your own work changed?

My work has changed considerably in the past two or three years, and that too is related to the quality of the talent we’ve attracted. When our overall management team was less experienced, a small handful of us were responsible for everything. As such, any outcome that was less than stellar was a direct result of something we had done or had failed to do well enough. Frankly, we were spread too thin. While we all still feel ownership for all elements of the business, each of us is now fundamentally responsible for executing most effectively on those things under our direct responsibility. In the past three years, thanks to the support of a strong team, I’ve been able to stay focused on things directly related to the consistent improvement of our financial results. I feel empowered to be a fully engaged CFO right now. Credit for that goes to the management team Mark has assembled. As an executive, I have a lot more confidence now that the things we decide to do as a company will be taken away and executed on.