If a headline-grabbing global disaster of natural or man-made origin happens, chances are good that Torus Insurance Holdings Ltd. has insured against it: earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, flooding in Australia and Thailand, explosions at a Canadian gas refinery and a Cypriot power plant, and the sinking of a Maersk offshore oil platform are recent examples.
Begun in 2008 with 20 people in offices in London and Bermuda, Torus today is a specialty insurer that maintains a global footprint with 600 employees in 16 offices around the world. The company is based in Bermuda, with a big part of its corporate operations conducted in London. About 20 percent of its employees work in the United States, and a third of its workforce is located in Gurgaon, India — the location of Torus’ global operations office.
Its gross written premiums in 2011 totaled nearly $1 billion. In 2011, the company wrote premiums of $918 million, with total net revenues of $680.7 million and expenses of $788 million for a net loss of $105 million.
To expand its reach, Torus bought Broadgate Underwriting Ltd., a Lloyd’s of London syndicate, and CV Starr Syndicate within the past two years.
LEGAL TEAM AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL
José González, 46, oversees a legal team of 20 as general counsel since 2011. The team includes four attorneys in Jersey City, N.J.; London; and Gurgaon. He’s in charge of legal, compliance and regulatory matters, as well as the claims and internal audit departments. González reports directly to Torus Group chief executive officer Clive Tobin and serves on the five-member executive counsel.
Tobin strives to achieve the right balance between "handling matters internally and leveraging outside counsel’s resources and subject-matter expertise," González said. "We work at a quick pace, assessing issues as they arise and determining the appropriate legal support required."
González described himself as a generalist, albeit one with extensive mergers-and-acquisition experience from his years at American International Group Inc., one of the largest financial-services companies in the world at that time.
Although keeping things in-house is more cost effective, González and his team will work with outside firms based on their expertise in a particular subject matter and the resources they can provide. "Whenever we use outside counsel, we make sure we utilize our internal resources to manage their work as closely as possible in order to arrive at the most cost-effective result for Torus," González said.
The company’s acquisition of the Lloyd’s Broadgate Syndicate 1301 "required transactional expertise and in-depth knowledge of how Lloyd’s works," González said. So he hired Norton Rose in London, which "was able to bring both the technical expertise on Lloyd’s and the deep transactional experience generally." In various U.S. transactions, González worked with Sidley Austin’s Chicago office.
Focusing on costs and efficiencies is a top priority, González said, especially with firms with a high level of insurance regulatory and transactional expertise. Given Torus’ specialized product, it is essential that it gets advice from professionals with broad regulatory experience in the jurisdictions where it operates, he said.
There is no such thing as a typical workday for González, who spends his time traveling between international and regional offices. "On any given day, I may be required to travel to meet with regulators, attend strategy sessions with other members of our executive management team, participate in negotiations related to a new transaction, or just meet to connect with my staff or internal clients," he said.
ROUTE TO THE TOP
After graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1989, González went on to Columbia Law School, from which he graduated in 1994. He became a corporate associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges before joining AIG as part of the law department’s mergers-and-acquisitions team in 1999. There, he gained experience in East Asia, Europe and Latin America representing the company in acquisitions, joint ventures and investments relating to AIG’s insurance and asset-management business. His last position there was as deputy general counsel.
González points to two periods of his career that stand out. During the late 1990s, as corporate associate at Weil, he was picked to work at the firm’s new London office. The team was thinly staffed, and associates needed to "step up to the plate." Living and working in London, and the contacts he made, prepared him for Torus "by giving me greater credibility with my current colleagues as someone who is familiar with the London market."
Another highlight was his tenure at AIG.
"At the time, AIG was still very active in cross-border acquisitions. As a result, I spent quite a bit of time in Asia and Latin America. AIG completed some very interesting deals at the time and I was glad to be part of the team," he said.
Born in New York, González is an avid traveler who loves fine dining and meeting new people — interests that serve him well as a globe-trotting general counsel. González and his wife, Christine Ann Soto, have two teenage boys, Javier and Emilio. She holds a law degree from New York University School of Law and has her own special-education law practice in New Jersey. They balance their family life and careers with the help of his in-laws, who live nearby, and Soto’s flexible schedule. "When I am home, we often tag team, running our kids around to our events. It can be a little crazy, but we make it work."
When not traveling, González serves as president of the board of Project­Explorer.org, a nonprofit organization with a focus on cross-cultural understanding and improving global awareness. The organization produces a multimedia series of "virtual field trips" detailing the culture, history and language of different countries. "I truly identify with the goals of ProjectExplorer.org and am very happy that I can help implement its mission," he said.
LAST BOOK AND MOVIE
The last book González read was My Beloved World, the autobiography of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. He tends to favor nonfiction and history, and it helped that he happened to meet Sotomayor during a small event in New York. "I found her path to success very interesting and inspirational," he said. "Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were able to meet her and she signed my copy!"
The last movie he saw was Skyfall. He tends to catch movies while flying between continents. "It depends on my mood, but often I pick films that are light and just fun."