As an independent, employee-owned business, BPL Global is a uniquely positioned specialist broker in the credit and political risk (CPRI) market. Having recently announced its long-term succession plans, BPL’s newly appointed deputy CEOs, James Reynolds and Charlie Radcliffe, discuss the business’s unwavering commitment to clients, and what clients can expect as BPL takes on a new stage in its evolution.


Q: What changes have been made to the management structure?

 Radcliffe: There are a few changes to highlight – firstly, our founder and chairman Charles Berry is now founding director, remaining actively engaged in the business. Managing directors James Esdaile and Sian Aspinall have become chairman and group CEO respectively. James Reynolds and I, who have been directors for a number of years, have been appointed deputy group CEOs.

Our CFO will continue to be Tim Cullis, who has been in the role since 2015.


Q: What does this mean for your clients? What changes will they see?

Reynolds: Any change will be marginal, particularly in the shorter term. The transition has purposely been planned to take place over a relatively long period, allowing us to provide transparency and certainty, ensuring a smooth process for us and, importantly, our clients. We wanted to be considered and prepared, and to lay out clear, solid plans for the future of BPL to provide reassurance and stability for our clients and the market.

Radcliffe: James and I will keep many of our direct client day-to-day responsibilities for the time being, so from their perspective, there will be no disruption in service. But the building blocks are being put in place now to ensure that any business management developments will be a gradual ‘changing of the guard’, so to speak.

Reynolds: BPL’s approach has always been for senior management to have a very direct influence on client dealings, and that won’t change. Everyone’s office door is always open, and we work very closely together. With respect to the longer term, BPL attracts and retains a lot of talent. In the same way that Charlie and I evolved through the company, we have very talented people coming through who will continue to serve clients in the same way that we’ve always done. It has and will always be about evolution, rather than revolution.


Q: Will the changing roles of James, Sian and Charles impact clients in any way?

Reynolds: Not at all. They are all hugely committed to the business and everything BPL is striving to achieve. James and Sian will continue to lead the business with us in support. While there’s been speculation about whether Charles is retiring, categorically he is not. He continues to bring monumental value to the business and to be a pioneer of the market.


Q: Why have you decided to make these changes now?

Radcliffe: We felt it was important to make a statement about the future of BPL and provide reassurance for us and our clients as to the direction we’re heading in. In a world of instability, people always like to see an element of stability. Hopefully this development is particularly welcomed by our clients.


Q: What are your roles as deputy CEOs?

Reynolds: The focus is on broadening our responsibilities rather than shifting them, to allow for continuity and stability, whilst providing Sian and James with additional support in a growing business and constantly evolving market. Our involvement in different management elements within the company will expand, and that includes board composition.

I will be joining the board of our Singapore company, having already joined the New York board, and Charlie will be on the board of our French subsidiary.

Radcliffe: Our roles will require us both to be heavily involved in the management of the company, new business, and being an ambassador for BPL and boosting its profile. Those are responsibilities that we’ll be sharing with Sian, James, Charles and other senior management.


Q: Could you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?

Reynolds: Charlie and I have arrived at this point from slightly different avenues. Following graduation from university,

I joined the insurance industry by taking on a role at Willis in 2008. After a variety of CPRI roles, I joined BPL in 2014. Charlie joined BPL having completed a master’s degree and is one of many BPL ‘lifers’. We feel our backgrounds complement each other very well.

Funnily enough, at one stage when I was at Willis and he was at BPL, we were both working on the same client at the same time. So our paths have crossed more than once throughout our careers!


Q: What excites you about the role and what do you hope to achieve?

Reynolds: We’re looking forward to helping to shape the evolution of BPL – all under the umbrella of being an independent broker, which is increasingly rare, and something we’re very proud of. As part of this, we are excited to continue to provide a specialist service for our clients, and develop effective solutions to support their needs going forward. That’s something that drives us both, because ultimately, broking is a client-driven industry. We see a very bright future for the company, with real potential to expand our levels of growth.


Q: Why is it important for BPL to maintain its independence as a broker? How does this set you apart?

Reynolds: Charles Berry has always firmly believed that independence is an incredibly important attribute for a broker. It is a philosophy that we are all strong advocates of because of the undeniable success we’ve had under that independence. How does it set us apart?

It allows us to be nimble and flexible and attract and retain the very best people. The main attribute of a broker is its people, and it’s through them that you achieve the best client service.

Radcliffe: Another important point to mention is that we’re employee-owned – something that, again, drives a positive culture and staff retention. If you can build and maintain that environment, it allows a company to thrive. That, of course, is beneficial for the staff, but also for clients.


Q: Does that independence allow you to be more nimble when it comes to introducing new client solutions and technology innovation?

Reynolds: Definitely. We have a very experienced IT department with software development capabilities within it. This allows us to adapt and change more seamlessly, which is particularly important in today’s fast-paced, digitalised world.

Radcliffe: A good example of this is our online policy management tool Sphere, which gives clients access to all their CPRI data through a single portal. Being able to develop market-leading software like this ourselves, which is designed by us to meet clients’ specific needs, is something we’re very proud of.

Reynolds: Our flexibility also applies to areas like recruitment. We don’t have the same bureaucracy as many businesses, which helps us to react quickly to support client needs. This could involve us hiring an expert in a different specialism. This was the case when we brought in Gregory King-Underwood on the reinsurance side, for instance.


Q: How are you supporting clients in today’s challenging landscape?

Reynolds: We are living in an unstable world. In fact, ever since 2008, a continual run of global events has meant that our market and our clients have faced a prolonged period of extreme headwinds. The pandemic was an extraordinary period for everybody. Because of the nature of the impact of Covid-19 – and its resultant economic pressure on sovereigns and private creditors alike – the CPRI industry feared itself in the eye of the storm.

Thankfully, we haven’t seen the level of defaults that were forecast. But inevitably, there have been claims. It is the shop window of what we do and managing those claims effectively demonstrates the value of the product. As we navigated through, we came up against the unexpected turn of events with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is now also affecting our business.

Radcliffe: From a client perspective, the extent to which this is going to impact our market isn’t completely clear. But there will be an impact. This applies to the wider insurance industry as well, because it’s not just CPRI that is in the claims firing line, so to speak. But our market is very robust. As are our clients and insurers. It’s another storm to weather, but we will all weather it. And then who knows what the future holds?

A recessionary environment? The threat of stagnation? Regulatory changes? These are things that we will continue to traverse – and support our clients throughout.


Q: How difficult is it to adapt to the changing environment and the bombardment of challenges?

Radcliffe: It can be difficult. Navigating the sanctions environment and the impact on our clients and insurers has been one of the recent challenges. But that’s the job of an effective broker. That’s why we’ve built our business in the way we have: with a range of skillsets and expertise in place, including internal compliance and legal counsel, to allow us to effectively navigate the breadth of changes that are taking place.

Reynolds: In our mind, the broker should be the swan, gliding across the water for the client to see. Meanwhile, underneath, we’re paddling away to make sure everything is in place as it needs to be! We are here to help clients obtain the coverage they need – for whatever reason, be it risk, capital relief, shareholder pressure, etc – to run their business effectively. Clients look to us for stability and expertise throughout their insurance process. Our ability to be nimble and flexible in responding to the needs of our clients is central to this.