Belfast Telegraph

Armagh man who helped build a success... and earned £119m

By Margaret Canning

Liberty Insurance has the fifth-largest market share in the world, so the ambition evident from its purchase of Hughes Insurance shouldn't come as a surprise.

The deal marks it out as a big player in the Irish market, north and south – yet it has long had strong Irish links, and not just because it is headquartered in the Irish-American Mecca of Boston.

Ted Kelly (right) from Keady in Co Armagh joined the company as president in 1993, became chief executive and later chairman – but stepped down in 2013.

The Queen's University graduate, who studied in Boston, became an academic and then an actuary before joining Liberty, attracted controversy for earnings of around $200m (£119m) in his last four years as chief executive.

But according to a newspaper profile, he has not overtly traded on his Irish heritage in business –and the same profile described him as "hard as nails".

He is credited with tripling revenues at the company to $34bn (£20bn).

The mutual has been operating in the Republic since its deal to buy Quinn Insurance in partnership with then-Anglo Irish Bank in 2011 – but its entry in to Northern Ireland's insurance market, which began in 2013, had been much more tentative up until now.

In 2013 it announced plans to increase its share of the market, and appointed Invest NI chairman Mark Ennis to its board 'for a Northern Ireland perspective'.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph at the time, Liberty Insurance head Patrick O'Brien revealed modest plans to build on Quinn Insurance's depleted share of the market, which fell to 5% after it was dramatically put into administration in 2010.

"Back in time, Quinn pre-administration was writing motor, home, commercial at peak, and had 15-to-18% market share in Northern Ireland.

"During the administration process they had to cease writing business in home and commercial but allowed to continue writing motor, so naturally the business contracted in that time.

"What we want to do is grow that business back and we think we can be a significant player in the north – in the top three or top five."

Belfast Telegraph