Mark Shaw

Hiscox's Head of Business Development and Marketing on why insurers need to do more to prove their value and why he can’t wait for the new Star Wars film.

What was your dream job as a child?

I wanted to be prime minister, believe it or not. I’ve always been interested in politics, even as a kid and I studied the subject at university, where I was a member of a political party and would drive little old ladies to the polling stations on election days. But instead of a career in politics I chose insurance. 

How did you get into insurance?

Inadvertently. I sent my CV to several firms in Manchester and RSA was one of those that replied. My first job there was working in motor claims, which helped me develop a thick skin that’s come in useful in my later jobs.

Describe your typical day?

My job is quite an unusual one in a Lloyd’s business as it’s focused on developing innovative new products and then going out and selling those to brokers and clients. Sales and marketing is something that this market hasn’t really done a lot of in the past. But brokers tell us they want to work more closely with us to find new business, which is good for us, for them and for London generally. To do that we must provide brokers with the tools they need to sell to clients, which are really good new products and services.

Typically, half of my day is spent meeting brokers and pitching new ideas to them, while the other half is spent working with our underwriters to help them ensure the time they have with brokers is spent most effectively.

I also help run a regular sales training programme for our underwriters, to help them explain to brokers and clients what sets us apart from others – something that I think is quite unusual in the Lloyd’s market.

Typically, half of my day is spent meeting brokers and pitching new ideas to them, while the other half is spent working with our underwriters to help them ensure the time they have with brokers is spent most effectively.

I also run monthly innovation workshops with our teams, which have proved really popular. We call them “happy hours” and yes, there is drink involved. We get together and brainstorm new ideas and work out how we take the best ones forwards. 

What’s the biggest challenge facing the business over the next 12 months?

Demonstrating to clients and brokers what value we add and therefore why the price we need to charge is actually good value for money.

As our business has become so commoditised it has become increasingly difficult to explain why price shouldn’t be the main – or only – factor in deciding which insurer to choose. Insurers need to raise rates, especially since the recent string of very expensive natural disasters, but we can’t simply thump the table and demand more money. We have to demonstrate what benefit we bring.

As an Everton fan, what’s your verdict on their season so far?

I come from a family of Evertonians, stretching right the way back to my great grandfather, so I never really had any choice in the matter, which is why it’s all the more painful that we’ve been absolutely terrible this season.

I think Everton’s problems offer a lesson to all managers: you can’t get the best out of people by having a one-dimensional management approach. You need to be flexible and adjust your approach to the situation.

Scoring goals has been a real problem because we didn’t replace Lukaku over the summer. We’ve also had a problem with getting the right manager in recent seasons – and we’re now on the hunt for another one. We used to have Roberto Martinez, who was too soft on the players and then they appointed Ronald Koeman, who’s all stick and no carrot.

I think Everton’s problems offer a lesson to all managers: you can’t get the best out of the people who work for you by having a one-dimensional management approach. You need to be flexible and adjust your approach to the situation.

They’re also a lesson to everyone who hires managers. Organisations often over-compensate for their error in appointing the wrong manager by then hiring someone who’s the opposite of the person who did the job before. That often means they go from one extreme to the other, which leaves employees – in this case the players – feeling confused about what’s expected of them. 

Which Star Wars character did you want to be when you were a kid?

Darth Vader every time. The baddies were always cooler.

Which is your favourite film?

“Revenge of the Sith”, but I really like the new ones as well. I’ve already booked my ticket to see the new film, which I’ll probably see at least three times over Christmas: once with my mates, my partner (she loves it too!) and my kids. 

Do your children share your passion?

I’ve got two daughters, and there’s a lot of Star Wars Lego around the house, which I say is theirs. 

Describe your perfect weekend?

I really like cooking and walking, so it would involve a long walk followed by plenty of good food and drink. I’d also spend time with my kids and then Sunday night would be spent watching an American football game. I love the NFL, and so that would be the perfect way to finish my weekend.

Tell us something about yourself that most people wouldn’t know?

I used to be a chef. I worked in the kitchen of a pub while I was at college and university, and I worked every Christmas Day for five years. That job helped teach me how to cope with pressure and how to be very organised, which have proved to be very useful to me over the years.