60 seconds with...Stuart Allen

Kidnap and Ransom Line Underwriter, Stuart Allen, on the importance of discipline, camaraderie and trust when underwriting K&R insurance. 

What is your role at Hiscox?

I am the Line Underwriter for K&R.

How long have you been in insurance and at Hiscox?

I have worked in insurance for 22 years and at Hiscox for five years. Prior to Hiscox I spent nine years at Catlin where I helped build a recall and kidnap book from scratch with a now Hiscox colleague, David Burke.

What drew you to the insurance industry?

It was a happy accident. I had friends and family in the industry so stumbled into it that way. I wrote my dissertation on Irish politics at university and when I started in the insurance industry in the late 90’s as an underwriting assistant, I heard about the myths and legends of K&R insurance. I ended up helping to front Hiscox LatAm business through Generali in the very early naughties and that was my first experience of what I do now.

What drew you to Hiscox?

Hiscox was and still is a leader in kidnap and ransom. I’d spent years trying to compete but in the end I went from poacher to farmer! There are very different challenges to protecting and growing a market leading book than attacking a market leader. The biggest of those being underwriting discipline; when competition around you is relying on you to underwrite the risk, it’s important to be able to walk away if you aren’t comfortable.

What are the most pressing issues in your world currently?

The evacuation from any public/political unrest due to Covid-19 in addition to regular kidnappings, such as those you would think of when anyone talks about kidnap and ransom. Cyber extortions too. Remember though, throughout all of this, there are extortions and kidnappings happening every day all over the world, not linked to Covid-19 or political unrest, but to day-to-day crime.

What do you predict will be the biggest threats that your clients will face in 3-5 years?

Threats and extortions will rise (in particular cyber extortions ) and will become more complex. Kidnappings and crimes will also become more advanced and devious. Without getting into too much detail, we are already seeing the rise in virtual kidnappings, where criminals convince victims that they or their loved ones are in danger or already being held (may be while they are unreachable by phone) and demand ransoms quickly before they realise it’s a rouse. Also express kidnappings, where someone is taken and driven around cash machines, forced to withdraw money until midnight when their maximum withdrawal rolls over.

Why is having crisis management capabilities important to your line of business? 

In many countries that our clients operate in, the security and political environments are volatile and unstable. In the event of an incident occurring, it is essential that advice and assistance can be provided around any complex and sensitive issues that need to be addressed to achieve a safe conclusion for our clients. We have an exclusive partnership with expert global risk consultancy, Control Risks (not just for K&R but also for SIR, Terrorism and Product Recall) who provide pre- and post-incident response support to our clients. This means we’re able to help our insureds before a problem arises, as well as after in the event of an incident taking place.

What are 3 words to describe Hiscox Crisis Management? 

Identify, support and rectify.

What’s the best thing about your team?

Camaraderie and trust. It’s hugely important because what we do is often emotive and as a team, not only do we need to work well together but also support each other. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that each of our clients hope they never have to use this insurance and if they do, it has a huge impact on them and their families in many circumstances.


  • Crisis management