Attorney, venture capitalist, leading insurance executive – there are many ways to describe Argo Group Chief Executive Mark Watson.
Introduced to insurance at a young age, Watson was inspired by his father, founder of Titan Holdings Inc. and a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” to enter the business.
“Growing up at the dinner table, I learned about the challenges and the opportunities encountered while building a business, particularly those in our industry,” Watson told Insurance Business America.
When he graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in finance, he went on to study law at the University of Texas. After a stint practicing in New York, Watson returned to Texas and joined his father’s company as general counsel, then as secretary and a member of the Board of Directors. He worked at Titan for six years, and eventual helped his father take his company public.
“What appealed to me most was the merit of determining and maintaining a detailed strategy for growth,” Watson said.
It’s a lesson he’s taken with him throughout his career. After building up Titan through mergers and acquisitions, he went on to a role as principal with Aquila Capital Partners. There, he honed his skills in assessing companies for growth potential – and it was there he discovered Argonaut, a financially struggling California workers’ compensation insurer.
“It was clear to me the environment in which the company had prospered had changed in ways that made its current business unsustainable,” said Watson. “The company was at a crossroads, yet I was confident that with a solid strategy – which included exiting legacy lines of business and entering new markets – there were opportunities to thrive well into the future.”
Watson invested in the company in 1998 and joined the board in 1999. Seventeen years later, Argonaut thrives as Argo Group International, a $2 billion underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products in the property/casualty market.
He says returning the company to profitability was “all about finding the right strategy,” including moving from a workers’ comp insurer to a specialty underwriter. Watson was asked to run the organization in 2000, with results quickly showing his planned approach was strategically valid.
“But we certainly had our share of good fortune, as well as bad, along the way,” he said.
Today, Watson continues to lead Argo Group into new frontiers, including ensuring the company is prepared to properly harness technology as consumer expectations in insurers change.
And his outlook for the next 10 years is bright.
“Our performance is solid, and our future as a leading, global specialty insurer is looking as positive as any realist could hope for,” Watson said. “Much of my confidence comes from seeing the terrific team we’ve put in place around the world. As Argo has matured, we have attracted some of the world’s top talent. When we meet to talk about the future, the conversation is lively with innovative ideas.”
ArgoGlobal hires political risks underwriter from AIG
An insurance broker goes to Cleveland