60 seconds with… the Kidnap and Ransom London team
In this 60 second article we spoke to the Hiscox London Market K&R London team to get a better understanding of the their key priorities and to learn more about how they got into insurance. If you missed our last 60 second article on the K&R Latin America team, you can read it here.
“It’s a privilege to lead a team of dedicated Hiscox kidnap and ransom (K&R) underwriters. They are dedicated and innovative, solving problems and providing a top class service to our customers. As the K&R market expands, we remain leaders in the class, driving the market forward with a brand second to none working alongside our exclusive crisis management partners, Control Risks, who continue to provide the best service, drawing on decades of experience and a wide ranging skill set.”
Stuart Allen – K&R Line Underwriter
What is your role at Hiscox?
I am the Line Underwriter for the K&R London team.
What has been the most pivotal moment in the insurance industry since you joined in 1998?
The most pivotal moment was the growing prevalence in marine piracy that happened around 2009 - 2014. A problem that had rarely existed suddenly became a daily event, with over 20 vessels and 1000s of crew held off the coast of Somalia. As underwriters we had to quickly adapt our underwriting, wordings and approach to provide a solution.
I flew out to Sri Lanka to talk to armed guard companies and navies about tackling the problem on a physical level as a well as from an insurance perspective. It was a crazy few years with our client book doubling in size. And it was a great feeling when, after five years, all the crew and vessels being held were largely released.
As the world recovers from COVID-19, what do you predict will be the top risks that your clients face?
The threats of climate change come to mind. Not just the obvious things like an increased threat of hurricanes, storms and water rising with melting ice, but also political unrest. The developing world is largely on the front line of climate change. They will feel the effects faster and if they already have politically and socially unstable environments, they will face the problems of social unrest and displacement. These are going to be evolving risks, so like we did with piracy, we must help find solutions for our clients.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s difficult to narrow this down to one. I’ve had the opportunity to travel, to live in Madrid for a couple of years and I’ve had the chance to meet some incredibly interesting people along the way!
What do you enjoy most about working in insurance?
The variety is great, especially in the corporate K&R lines where all the risks we underwrite are so different that things don’t get stale. You’re always having to research and at least try to understand the basics of how a client’s business works. If we don’t understand this bit, we may miss key threats that they may face which could lead to making bad underwriting decisions. Outside of the underwriting, even in a post lockdown ‘e-trading’ world, it remains at its core a people business which always keeps things interesting.
What is the most valuable skill to have as an underwriter, and why?
You need to be analytical, personable, commercially minded and creative in the way you structure solutions for clients. A good imagination also helps in terms of working through scenarios that could give rise to losses.
How did you get into insurance?
I had an internship with Hiscox during my university holidays and once I had graduated I spoke to the team I had worked with, to see if they had any opportunities. At the time I was working four other jobs. They were kind enough to let me help on a temporary basis, as I had prior knowledge of the business, and within a month or so I was upgraded to a permanent role as a Client Relationship Executive.
What is the most interesting part about being a K&R underwriter?
Tracking claims is always a highlight and something to draw upon when with clients or rating future business. We are in a special class of insurance where the cases have a particular sense of intrigue and where a successful resolution is especially rewarding. Also, outside of the realms of insurance, no one believes me (the first time) when I say what I do. I’m not sure if that is telling of me or the product!
What advice would you give to someone starting out in insurance?
Face to face is always the best form of contact; know when to walk away from a deal; and take a pinch of salt with everything you hear – things aren’t always as they seem.
What attracted you to Hiscox?
The fact that Hiscox specialises in niche areas of the insurance market, has a great reputation as well as a global presence.
How did you find transitioning from being an analyst in the operations team to becoming a K&R underwriter at the start of the pandemic?
I was lucky that I had already met a few of our main brokers before I joined the underwriting team, had an understanding of our systems and was close with the underwriting team so it felt like a smooth transition. It was really a case of learning the technical side which is easier when you have a great support system around you, colleagues who have been in the market for ages and have a lot of time to help you. Being in lockdown helped as it meant I had more time to learn the ropes.
What three words would use to describe the Hiscox London Market K&R team?
Hardworking, fun and knowledgeable.
What inspired your move from banking to the insurance industry?
I had worked in banking for 12 years before having children, so when I was ready to start working again after having taken a break it was an opportunity to do something completely different and take on a new challenge in a different industry sector. Hiscox are very flexible when it comes to working parents and were one of the few companies offering interesting part-time roles at the time, so it was a great fit.
What do you love most about working in the Hiscox K&R team?
Every day is different as every risk we look at is different, plus the world is ever-changing and impacting our underwriting decisions so it’s always interesting. As I’d never worked in insurance before joining Hiscox, I have started from scratch so it’s given me a totally new challenge to get stuck into over the last few years which has been great and I’ve learnt a huge amount.
What has been the best skill that you have picked up since working at Hiscox?
Managing and prioritising multiple tight deadlines and tasks during our very busy renewal periods.