Steve Hearn, deputy CEO of Willis, has surprised the market by leaving Willis to become CEO of Cooper Gay Swett & Crawford, starting in November.
Hearn joined Willis in 2008 and was appointed deputy CEO of Willis Group Holdings in January 2013.
He has served as CEO of Willis Global from December 2011, leaving that role to oversee Willis Capital Wholesale and Reinsurance at the beginning of 2015.
He was CEO of Willis Re from February to December 2011, having led Faber & Dumas, Global Markets International and Willis Facultative from 2008 until 2011.
Hearn is also chairman of the London and International Insurance Brokers’ Association and chairman of the London Market Group (LMG).
Dominic Casserley, Willis Group CEO, said: “I want to thank Steve for everything that he has done for Willis in a host of senior roles over the past seven years.
“Steve has served clients with distinction, influenced the careers of dozens of Willis colleagues, particularly in the UK and in our speciality and reinsurance businesses, and played a significant leadership role on a wide range of initiatives including our recent investment in Miller Insurance Services.”
Casserley continued: “Steve has been an extraordinary help to me, both as my deputy in my first two-and-a-half years at Willis and in recent months supporting the arrival of new Willis GB chief executive Nicolas Aubert and in ensuring that all his responsibilities are passed appropriately to other executives.
“He has also demonstrated strong leadership in our industry in the work of the London Market Group. We are, of course, sorry to see Steve leave our firm, but at this natural point of inflection in his career, we congratulate him on his new appointment," he added.
Adding his own words to those of his boss, Hearn said: “I want to thank all of the Willis team for what has been a great professional experience for me over the past seven years.
“It has been a pleasure to play my part in putting Willis’ strategy in place, and to see those plans enable superb client service and the growth of the firm.
“It has been a very hard decision to leave an institution that I care deeply about, and I wish my friends and colleagues at Willis all the best for the future,” said Hearn.
Hearn's new boss and colleague, Martin Sullivan, the executive chairman of Cooper Gay Swett & Crawford (CGSC) said: “To attract someone of the calibre of Steve Hearn not only demonstrates CGSC’s commitment to maintain the great strides already made, but is also a reflection of how highly we are respected in the market and our prospects for the future.
“Steve has the leadership, vision and energy to realise the potential that exists within this business.
Hearn himself added: “The CGSC story is compelling, with strong established teams that are among the best in the market.
“It is now poised to enter a new chapter and I am extremely pleased that I will be part of it.”
Hearn is expected to assume his new responsibilities on 2 November 2015, CGSC added.
His recent role as chair of the LMG has also been highly praised in the market. At last week's Reactions London Market Awards, Hearn scooped the award for Industry Personality, as well as Innovation for the LMG's "London Matters" initiative.
David Gittings, Lloyd’s Market Association chief executive, said: “It’s a really important development for the London insurance market because it is the only body that group’s together all the different interests of the market around one table. In years to come I think that will be a really powerful voice.”