CFI.co Meets the CEO of MDS Group & Brokerslink: José Manuel Dias da Fonseca

José Manuel Dias da Fonseca has more than 30 years’ experience in insurance and risk management and is chief executive officer of the MDS Group and Brokerslink.

Mr Da Fonseca is a member of the board of directors of London-based Ed Broking (an independent wholesale and reinsurance broker) and the US-based Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB). He is president of APOGERIS, the Portuguese Association of Risk Managers – following his role as vice president of FERMA, the European Federation of Risk Managers.

A music lover, he was president of the Casa da Música (House of Music) from 2006 to 2014. Mr Fonseca is also passionate about Arts and Architecture and sits on the board of directors of Árvore, an Artistic Activities Cooperative. He is also president of the House of Architecture. Mr Fonseca was honoured by the French Government as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française.

The Route to MDS

Mr Fonseca has an Economics degree from the University of Porto, class of 1981. He then joined the Northern Region Coordination Commission and in 1983 completed a Management Publique postgraduate degree at the Institut International de l’Administration Publique in Paris (now École Nationale d’Administration).

That same year Mr Fonseca joined Banco Português do Atlântico (BPA) as a planning specialist. He later moved to research and marketing, taking responsibility for insurance and financial innovation. This led to the launch of Bancassurance in Portugal (in collaboration with insurance company Tranquilidade).

Mr Fonseca also served internships with Crédit Agricole and BRED in Paris and led the creation of the pension funds management company PRAEMIUM. In 1987, he was appointed PRAEMIUM chief executive.

Three years later, José was appointed director of Socifa Investimento (later Norcrédito, Sociedade de Investimento) and during his tenure, led a business mission to Namibia with the South African delegation of the ICEP (Portuguese Foreign Commerce Institute).

From 1991 to 1994, Mr Fonseca was president of insurers REAL Seguros and REAL Vida Seguros and lectured for a master’s programme at Portugal’s Instituto de Estudos Financeiros e Fiscais (IESF). In December 1993, he became deputy mayor of the City Council of Matosinhos and in 1997 was appointed director of the ICEP in Porto, the Portuguese Foreign Trade Office, where he served until December 1999.

Joining and Expanding MDS

In 2000, Mr Fonseca joined the Sonae Group with responsibility for insurance and risk management and was appointed chief executive officer of MDS. Under his leadership, MDS became the number one broker in the Portuguese market (2005) – a position it continues to hold today.

In 2009, the holding company MDS SGPS was founded – a joint-venture between Sonae and the Brazilian Group Suzano. MDS SGPS manages all group shares held in the global risk management and insurance services companies such as MDS Auto, Herco, and HighDome PCC. In 2011, MDS expanded into Africa, partnering with local groups in Angola and more recently Mozambique, and in 2016 was present in the Iberian Peninsula via the creation of Filhet-Allard MDS (in partnership with French broker Filhet-Allard).

Mr Fonseca founded the global broking company Brokerslink in 2004 (the MDS Group is its largest shareholder) and since 2007, has been its CEO.


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