Tony Rai, Head of London Market Claims at Hiscox explains why he originally turned down a job at the firm, his bittersweet love affair with Notts Forest football club and his secret past as an adrenalin junkie.
You used to be a corporate lawyer – how did you come to work for Hiscox?
I came here on secondment from Clyde & Co in 2006, where I worked as a litigation lawyer on big-ticket marine and energy reinsurance claims. After I’d been here for a while, Jeremy Pinchin [Hiscox’s Group Claims Director] asked me if I was interested in coming to work full time for Hiscox. I turned him down at first, because I had my career mapped out at Clyde. But I changed my mind after meeting Bronek Masojada, Richard Watson and other members of the Hiscox senior management team. I was very impressed by their vision for the company, and I wanted to be a part of that.
Although we’re moving more towards electronic trading, personal relationships remain crucial when you’re dealing with large, complex claims.
What really resonated with me was how they explained to me how the claims team is central to the Group and the importance of providing a good service to our clients. I saw how I could work closely with Jeremy to push the claims function forwards, and in the past couple of years it has changed dramatically. We now have an enormous amount of data at our fingertips and we focus on understanding our clients’ needs. We recognise our primary role is to support them after a catastrophe has occurred, and the best way of doing that is by settling their claims as quickly as we can.
Was it a big culture shock?
Yes, a lawyer would wait for all the facts before offering an opinion, but that’s a luxury you don’t often enjoy as an insurer. You have to make decisions very quickly, sometimes without as much information as you would ideally want. It can be quite stressful at times, but I really enjoy working in such a high-pressure, fast-paced environment.
How would you describe your job to a stranger?
Probably the simplest and easiest way is to say I’m the man with the chequebook.
What do you like best about your job?
The variety. I love the fact that I’m dealing with different types of claims and clients on a daily basis. It’s a people business, and although we’re moving more towards electronic trading, personal relationships remain crucial when you’re dealing with large, complex claims.
What’s the biggest challenge facing you over the next 12 months?
The Claims Transformation Programme has dramatically changed the way in which claims are dealt with in the Lloyd’s market. The removal of Xchanging Claims Service as an agreement party for following Lloyd’s underwriters has resulted in increased responsibilities for those Lloyd’s Syndicates that sit as lead or second on the slip. This has resulted in an increased workload for Managing Agents, which has required extra resources, and that is also true of Hiscox. The prospect of older claims that are not part of the current scheme being included in the future will further exacerbate the impact. Also, we now need to understand the claims handling and reserving approach of our leads and second leads, and ensure our own approach is applied to those claims on which we are a follower.
Is there a career moment you’d like to forget?
There have been certain cases I was sure we would win, but which have gone against us. As a lawyer, my professional judgment was that we had a very strong case, so it’s painful to be told that effectively my opinion was wrong.
Is there one you like to remember?
I’m a glass half-empty person, so I tend to remember the unwanted outcomes and try to analyse how I can learn from them. But being made Head of London Market Claims was a proud achievement for me. Also, our service to our brokers has improved dramatically over the past two and a half years, which has been acknowledged by our biggest broking clients and reflected in us moving up the Gracechurch rankings. That’s a source of real satisfaction to me.
Your favourite book?
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. It’s a terrific, emotional read. World War I fascinates me, because the scale of the loss of life is unimaginable: 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. It’s hard for us today to believe how life was seen to have such little value back then.
Your favourite piece of music?
That’s difficult because I have quite varied musical tastes. Also, I have small children so I’m pretty limited in what I’m allowed to listen to! But Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber is probably my all-time favourite. It’s such a dramatic piece.
Newspaper or iPad?
Both. I prefer the look and feel of a newspaper, but I use my iPad extensively, although mainly for work.
Football or golf?
I love watching football but playing golf. I support Notts Forest, because they were the best team with the best manager when I was getting into football back in the early 80s. Like any supporter, I can’t change my team – in spite of the suffering they've put me through in recent years.
What's the last film you went to see?
Wreck-It Ralph. I took my three young children, but it was actually very amusing, because it featured the 80s video games that I used to play when I was young, like Frogger and Donkey Kong. The last film for grown-ups I watched was Skyfall.
Tell us something about yourself that most people wouldn't know?
I once did three bungee jumps in one day. I used to be a real adrenaline junkie: I've also been white-water rafting and skydived from 15,000 feet. But that's all changed now I've had kids. I think about the consequences of my actions now, whereas before I didn’t give a damn.