60 seconds with… the Wordings team16th May 2022
“In Hiscox London Market our clients have highly complex and often unique coverage needs, in a marketplace where you’re only as a good as your ability to keep your promises to your clients. Our highly experienced Wordings team is at the heart of our market leading coverage. The team provides a high quality personal service done swiftly, ensuring we can keep our promises. We’re one of the longest running Lloyd’s syndicates so it’s no surprise that flying alongside our market leading underwriters is a market leading Wordings team. I’m immensely proud to lead the team, who retain their humility despite their incredible knowledge, skills and experience.”
Philip Thompson – Head of Underwriting Standards & Governance, Hiscox London Market
What does your role at Hiscox entail?
I’m responsible for ensuring we have a robust framework for Hiscox London Market to manage underwriting risk, as part of helping the CUO and our underwriters deliver sustainable long term profits.
What are your key priorities over the next six months?
Building a shared future vision in the newly formed team, delivering on our plan and supporting the underwriters’ delivery of their plans.
What should someone know about you that isn’t on your CV?
I’m a Hiscox boomerang, which is on my CV, but what’s not on my CV is the reason why I returned to Hiscox after three and a half years away. I’ve been very fortunate never to have worked for a bad employer in the London Market, but Hiscox still manages to set itself apart above the rest. It’s an organisation where if you’re willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone and be open to trying new things, all possibilities become open to you and you can carve your own career path. Hiscox’s greatest strength as an employer is the strong sense of connection and being human. Regardless of what level of seniority your role, you spend every day working alongside and learning from humble legends in the market who are always willing to share their time and immense expertise.
How did you get into insurance and wordings?
I left school as a very shy 18 year old looking for a job locally. At the time Lloyd’s Policy Signing Office, which is now Xchanging, was one of the main employers where I lived in Chatham, Kent. While not anticipating a lifelong career in insurance, the work on offer seemed reasonable.
Like many young people I eventually wanted to see what London offered so moved to a Lloyd’s broker in the City. Someone there noticed I had an interest in what insurance policies actually said and offered me the chance to join a newly created Wordings Team. I had found my niche as a ‘wordings monkey’.
How has the London Market’s approach to wordings changed since you started working in this area in 1985?
Back in the 80’s there was very much a ‘deal now, detail later’ approach. A slip would be agreed that was often no more than a rough guide to the intended coverage. A proper policy wording would then be agreed after inception – or sometimes not at all. The introduction of the Market Reform Contract and the concept of ‘contract certainty’ in the mid-2000s improved things greatly. However, while this means that a contract must now always be in place for a risk at inception, its quality can often be poor, with insufficient care being taken by brokers when preparing the contract for Insurers’ consideration.
The wordings role has always been a specialist one and sadly it is an area which has never been invested in greatly by those companies operating within the London Market. It still surprises me that some Insurers who consider themselves market leaders do not employ wordings people. The pool of wordings specialists working for Insurers remains small - Hiscox should consider itself very lucky to have four of the best!
What is the most interesting part of your role?
I am at my happiest when creating a new wording product or improving upon an existing one. It is very easy to be negative about someone else’s drafting, but much harder to produce something of your own that will stand the test of time.
What are the most important skills to have as a wordings specialist?
It’s no surprise to emphasise strong attention to detail. Historically, wordings specialists were sometimes stereotyped as solitary animals, analysing policies alone with a red pen in hand. However regardless of old stereotypes, the reality today is very different. You need to be able to combine an eye for detail with commercial awareness – the core of our work is supporting underwriters. Risk can be complex, and insurance is a collaborative endeavour; the wordings function is only one of several specialisms advising on different aspects of risk. Therefore it’s important to have the confidence to challenge and argue the importance of wordings considerations when necessary, as well as having the judgement to know when to consult with experts in other specialisms in order to make informed decisions.
What inspired you to get into insurance?
Like many in this industry, insurance wasn’t something I considered as a career until after finishing my education. During university holidays I had a part time admin job at an insurance brokers in my hometown, who then generously took me on as full time trainee after I finished my studies. On certain accounts I dealt with specialist insurers (including Hiscox), and so through this discovered the fascinating world of the London insurance market, with its unique concentration of expertise and focus on special risks. As a history graduate, the heritage of Lloyd’s also really appealed, so the rest is…err…history! This combined with a growing desire in me to move to London to experience life in a vibrant, cosmopolitan city. Eventually I was fortunate enough to be offered a graduate trainee underwriter role at a Lloyd’s managing agent. However, I quickly realised that I was more interested in the policy wordings of accounts I was working on than the pure underwriting side of the work, so when a new role came up in their wordings team after six months, I happily moved across.
What's your favourite thing about working in the London insurance market?
Without doubt it is the ability to learn new things on an almost daily basis. The insurance industry is often considered to be very traditional, but the London market thrives by adapting to an ever changing world, so there are always new products being designed to respond to new types of risk, as well as new legal developments and a continually changing international regulatory environment. All of these require contractual wordings solutions, so I’m constantly learning and developing my skills.
What do you enjoy most about your role at Hiscox London Market?
I most enjoy working with wordings as I love that I’m so close to the heart of the business and helping to design and refine the products that we sell. To me, it makes my contributions seem a more direct and tangible ingredient to the success of the company.
What 3 words would you use to describe the Hiscox London Market wordings team?
Resourceful, expert, supportive.
What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career so far? and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge for me was simply finding what I was good at and what I enjoy. I’ve had roles in teaching, compliance and broker management before finding my groove in wordings. I don’t think anyone has their whole career plan figured out from day one, and I definitely didn’t. It took a while, I just tried new things, not seeing my role as a box that I couldn’t adventure outside of, and tried to be as honest with myself as possible and the rest just figured itself out in the end.
What attracted you to Hiscox?
Hiscox London Market has a great reputation as a positive working environment. I was well aware of the standing of the Syndicate, it’s history and the quality of staff. The Wordings’ job description emphasised values of technical excellence and commerciality that I share. Andrew and Steve have great market reputations and presence, it was very attractive for me to join Hiscox and specifically the Wordings’ Team.
What is your favourite part about working in the Hiscox London Market wordings team?
I have been very lucky to become part of a team that shares knowledge, support and kindness on a daily basis. My favourite element has been the team dynamic and how welcome I have been made to feel. On a technical level, the opportunity to build relationships in MES Division and drive the Wordings’ Proposition has been a very rewarding aspect of my role.
What would be your advice to anyone who would like to get into insurance, especially wordings?
Do it! I find the sector to be very rewarding – insurance can play an important role in any change to a more sustainable and progressive global outlook. A role in Wordings demands a keen eye for detail and a consistent approach, I am fascinated by the potential of technology and human creativity changing the way we think about a policy wording. Attempts to increase diversity will benefit the quality of work done and I look forward to witnessing how the next generation will respond to the challenges.