For someone who confesses to not being able to hold down a job for more
than three years, Scottish Equitable's business integration manager Peter
Dornan seems to be doing remarkably well.
The ScotEq high-flier, who is also employee benefits director with the
responsibility of bringing Guardian Employee Benefits into the ScotEq fold,
is not doing at all bad for someone who left school after O levels.
Born in Belfast in 1955, Dornan has had a meteoric rise from selling
washing machines to the heights of his present positions. In his spare time
he is also managing director at Scottish Equitable International.
His colleagues go to great pains to confirm that his rapid rise is
definitely down to his ability and nothing to do with the fact his football
loyalties lie with Hearts, the same team as Aegon UK group chief executive
His career started in his native Northern Ireland with a “nice stable and
safe job” as a bank clerk with Northern Bank, much to the delight of his
Based in Dungannon, which he describes as not a pleasant place to be at
the time because bombs were going off every month, he quickly realised a
life in banking was not for him.
He headed back off to Belfast to become an insurance sales consultant with
Target Life and then began his long association with Scottish Equitable,
becoming a broker consultant in 1981.
Dornan says: “I thought Christmas had come early when I looked at the list
of companies I had to cover but I suddenly came crashing to earth when I
realised the previous guy had only written 16 per cent of his target.”
In a fashion which has become a characteristic, he responded to the
challenge and became one of the company's top consultants.
After brief stints as assistant branch and branch manager at ScotEq's
regional off- ices in Belfast, Birmingham and Maidstone, his talent and
enthusiasm led to promotion to the role of personal investment sales
manager in 1994.
True to form, Dornan did not hold the post for long. Within three years,
he had moved on to become director (personal investment businesses) with
responsibility for launching ScotEq's International arm along with SEI
chairman Otto Thoresen.
He says: “I had absolutely no experience offshore, but I understood how it
worked and quickly got my head around it although it was a steep learning
The SEI initiative became a success and is now producing nearly £300m in
new business each year and has over £900m under management.
Dornan has gained the reputation with his colleagues as the nearest thing
that ScotEq has to a troubleshooter although he personally prefers to be
seen as a “lateral thinker who is into change management”.
With Aegon's purchase of Guardian Royal Exchange for £702m last October,
there are no points for guessing to whom they turned to bring the new guys
on board the big ship Aegon UK.
The Guardian pension business is being switched to ScotEq while Dornan
concentrates on forging ahead with his task of making the employee benefits
side of the business the UK's number one.
As part of the strategy, the Guardian name will be dropped, in line with
Aegon's policy for a single UK brand under the ScotEq name.
Dornan says: “We are in the process of rebranding Guardian as Scottish
Equitable Employee Benefits because IFAs' lives are compli- cated enough.
As part of the branding, we intend to build on the existing work done by
the Guardian on the employee benefits front.”
Dornan believes Guardian is the perfect match for ScotEq as it can now
offer IFAs a complete corporate package of group pension schemes as well as
a mix-and-match cafeteria-style range of employee benefits such as group
life and critical-illness cover.
Dornan feels the most important aspect he needs to get right is the
claims' handling process to be able to compete seriously in the IFA sector.
He says: “IFAs need to be confident we will honour a claim or at least
provide a very good reason why we will not. If we can deliver this it will
help us and IFAs sleep easier.”
Despite the obvious challenges of integrating the Guardian business and
making a mark in the employee benefits sector, Dornan confesses that
raising four boys, three of them teenagers, makes business seem easy.
Colleagues says Dornan is a ScotEq man through and through despite one
famous appearance at a staff party dressed as a Spice Girl.
Asked where he sees himself in five years, he says he is just hoping to
still be employed but admits that if he manages to pull off his latest
challenge with the employee benefits business, further opportunities await.