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Greg Boyko

There’s a buzz going round the life business as US giant Hartford Life International gets set to move into the UK, and its bee-keeping chairman aims to make it the land of milk and honey with the focus on service

Hartford Life International chairman and chief executive officer Greg Boyko is as passionate about delivering top-quality service to IFAs as he is about his bee-keeping and says if life offices believes that they can continue getting away with sub-standard service, then there may well be a sting in the tail for them.

Boyko is spearheading US giant Hartford Life’s entry into the UK life market after successfully exporting its services to Japan.

In the second quarter of this year, Hartford will be launching a unit-linked investment bond offering a capital guarantee and access to a range of third-party funds.

Big foreign players have tried and failed to crack the UK market before but Boyko says he is determined that Hartford will emulate the likes of Fidelity rather than Putnam or AMP.

From a standing start four years ago, Hartford has grown to become the leading unit-linked investment bond player in the Japanese market, building around $14.7bn in assets under management and taking 29 per cent market share, which rivals its 32 per cent share slice of the US market.This does not guarantee success in the UK but it does show that the Hartford model can be adapted around the world and is a rival worth taking seriously.

“We got asked the same questions when we first went into Japan but we are leveraging what we have successfully done twice and brought over some of the people who helped set up our Japan operation,” says Boyko. He has meticulously planned the group’s entry into the UK market.

“In preparation, we have been coming to the UK since 1990 but it was the collapse of with-profits and the growing disenchantment with the existing life offices largely because of problematic service levels that made us think that now is an opportune time.”

Boyko quotes one of his heroes, former Hartford policyholder and 16th US president Abraham Lincoln: “Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

Hartford prepared its entry into Japan by scrutinising the market for several years before picking what it felt was the most apt moment to make a move, regularly meeting with distributors and the regulator to build knowledge of the market.

The research of the UK market has convinced Boyko that service rather than starting a commission war will be the key to Hartford’s success, particularly as the company does not sell direct. “This demands we retain a high level of service because IFAs have no formal tie to us. We do believe that they are looking for a fresh, innovative company that can provide outstanding service.”

He has met several leading IFA networks and nationals, banks and the FSA and has built up a strong local team, which includes Lincoln Collins, previously with American Skandia, former Norwich Union director John Enos and ex-Planco salesman Adam Dooley.

The team is in place and they know their market and Boyko has no doubt that the product is needed. “Longevity is increasing near universally and people need increasingly to provide for themselves with employers and Governments pulling back from retirement provision.”

Hartford is still negotiating fund links with third-party managers and these are expected to be announced towards the end of the first quarter. The group is in the process of building a team of broker consultants which, along with phone support, will provide the backbone of Hartford’s service deal.

In the US, Hartford has 26,000 staff and in Japan the company employs 800 people, with 785 of them locals. Boyko similarly aims to favour locals in the UK and the company will launch with around 12 broker consultants although this is set to grow as the business expands.

The US giant pumped over $650m into the Japanese operation and Boyko says it “will still be a few years before this is a cash-generative business.” He travels to Japan most months and has been taking Japanese lessons to help him develop closer working relationships. He will not be drawn on how long Hartford will commit to the UK market but says, as it the third-biggest life and pension market in the world, it is clearly a top target for the firm.

All of his travelling to the UK and Japan means it is a good job that his bees, which live next to his apple orchard back home in Connecticut, are not too demanding of his time.He says that not only do they give his family honey but they also double the apple crop. “Watching the bees is like looking at a company – everyone has their own role and it only takes a few hours each month to look after them.”

If he can double the output of his apple orchard and conquer the Japanese market in four years, then maybe those among the current life office elite who do not raise their game to combat Hartford will be forced to buzz off.

Born: October, 1951

Lives: Connecticut,

US Career: 2004-present: chairman and chief executive officer, Hartford Life International, 1998-2004: senior vice-president and CEO, Hartford Life International, 1996-98: chief financial officer and treasurer, Hartford Life; 1995-96: controller, Hartford Life. Previously: ING American Life senior vice-president and chief financial officer, Ernst & Young, senior tax accountant.

Education: Graduated University of Connecticut and University of Connecticut School of Law and holds certified public accountant, chartered life underwriter and chartered financial consultant designations.

Likes: Sports – “I used to play a lot of squash” – watching baseball,fly fishing, travelling and music

Dislikes: Pessimism and bad service

Life ambition:”The biggest thrill I get out of this job is that people will say Greg got us into Japan and the UK.”

Heroes: Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Mick Jagger

Car: A Chevrolet SUV and a vintage Volkswagen

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