Rumours abound surrounding possible succession at QBE

The rumours have been flying fast and furious recently when general and commercial insurance provider QBE Insurance reported that Frank O’Halloran will be succeeded by Peter Harmer as chief executive for the Australia-based company.

UK weekly Insurance Insider revealed that Mr Harmer, who was the man in charge of AON’s Australia branch for several years before taking over its operations back home between the years of 2007 and 2009, will be stepping into Mr O’Halloran’s shoes once the latter retires from the global  personal and commercial insurance provider.

QBE Insurance has officially denied Insurance Insider’s report, stating through their spokesman Neil Drabsch that not only is there no expectation of when Mr O’Halloran will retire but as no external recruiters have been retained for filling any high level vacancy, the rumour is not founded in any instance of fact whatsoever.

While insurance industry experts have referred to Mr Harmer as not only extremely sensible but regarded as an exceedingly good operator, all have agreed with Mr Drabsch in regards to the rumour of his succeeding Mr O’Halloran as being incorrect.

While the rumour seems to have legs, there are other facts that tend to bring it to ground.  Most telling is the fact that QBE Insurance is an insurance underwriter, which contrasts relatively strongly against Mr Harmer’s status as an insurance broker.  That in and of itself isn’t the last nail in the rumour’s coffin, but the broker/underwriter diametrical opposition has been a relatively binary one for the insurance industry.

Mr O’Halloran, who has been chief executive of CBE for over 12 years, has been suspected of making retirement plans for the near future, leading to many hushed discussions in regards to who his possible successor could be.  When he took over QBE, Mr O’Halloran inherited a company with a stock price of $5 Australian, and under his leadership it has risen to A$16.74.

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