London’s leading underwriters revealed

Jun 24, 2015

Gracechurch, the leading research consultancy to the insurance industry, today published its 2015 report into the leading underwriters in the London market. The report, now in its third year, lists the underwriters who are voted as market leaders by fellow underwriters and by brokers. As well as ranking nearly 900 individual underwriters, Gracechurch has analysed over 6,000 qualitative responses and identified a number of characteristics that define leading underwriters.

Ben Bolton CEO comments “While the separate rankings show differences in the characteristics admired by underwriters and brokers, the combination of both sets of data makes for a unique 360° view on what makes great underwriters.

“All our research suggests that the talented underwriter is key to the success for an insurer – but that success lies not just in having one ‘hired gun’ but in building a high performing underwriting team. This requires not only recruiting the top talent but then combing that with hard graft, intelligent planning and sensitive management. The challenge for insurers is, as far as possible, to take the guesswork out of managing their underwriters. 

“Modern underwriting teams need to have a killer combination of soft skills, experience and technical mastery that gets them shown the best quality business first. Teams also need to be diverse to function at their best. However this can create volatility, so the leadership has to pull off the trick of ensuring that the teams have the right support to develop over the long term. Ultimately it is building experienced teams that creates the most value for the insurer.”

“This research will open up the field of understanding and will add to insurers’ empirical assessments of their teams. One key finding is that brokers and underwriters have somewhat different views of what characteristics they are looking for and this matters in terms of how underwriters work with both their peers and their brokers. The approaches for each audience require different mixes of capabilities and this should be built into talent management plans and a team’s diversity.”

  

Top Ten – voted by underwriters

Insurer

Underwriter

Business line

Watkins Syndicate

Dominick Hoare

Energy

XL Catlin

Stephen Hawkins

Energy

Tokio Marine Kiln

Tim Prifti

Accident and health

Beazley

Clive Washbourn

Marine

Liberty Specialty Markets

Bill Halligan

Aviation

Beazley

Jonathan Gray

Property

XL Catlin

Graham Hawkins

Specie and Fine Art

Beazley

Philip Sandle

Marine

Chaucer

Peter Wakefield

Aviation and space

Beazley

Simon Jackson

Property

 

Top Ten as voted by brokers

Insurer

Underwriter

Business line

Ascot

Mark Pepper

Reinsurance

Watkins Syndicate

Dominick Hoare

Energy

MAP

Richard Trubshaw

Reinsurance

Chaucer

Nick Kilhams

War & geopolitical risks

Talbot

James Bamford

War & geopolitical risks

Tokio Marine Kiln

Chris Jones

Casualty / non marine liability

XL Catlin

Richard Golder

Marine

Beazley

Clive Washbourn

Marine

Amlin

Bob Mellor

Property Reinsurance

XL Catlin

Graham Hawkins

Specie and Fine Art

 

The full LLU Report is being made available for the first time to insurers who can use the searchable database as a tool for talent management and planning.  Advanced analysis on the verbatim feedback will allow insurers to benchmark underwriter characteristics against market norms to improve decision-making on creating the right balance of diverse underwriters in the business.

The characteristics that matter to brokers are;

  • Experience; knowledge of business classes and understanding what clients are looking for.
  • Commerciality; the ability to do a deal, closely associated with independence and confidence.
  • Reputation and trust; not just the relationship with the broker but the trust and respect the underwriter commands in the market and from peers

While characteristics that matter to underwriters are;

  • Knowledge; technical knowledge and expertise and the willingness to share this with colleagues and peers.
  • Consistency; about maintaining high professional standards (i.e. not writing for market share) and linked to knowledge and expertise.
  • Reputation; often interchangeable with being ‘respected’ this is the earned bank of respect gained for displaying the right balance of commerciality and for the intellect that has been applied to those judgments.

To further improve quality the underwriter nominations were reviewed by CEO or CUO’s in the relevant businesses; an exercise that has resulted in 71% of the 2015 Leading Underwriters list being directly validated by their employers.

 

ABOUT LONDON’S LEADING UNDERWRITERS 2015

The Report is based on the nominations of 450 London Market Producing and Placing brokers and 200 London Market Underwriters. Interviewing and validation ran from November 2014 to May 2015. Both brokers and underwriters were contacted from Gracechurch’s screened databases. 65% of brokers were senior management or had board-level responsibilities. 44% of underwriters were senior underwriters, divisional heads or senior management with board level responsibilities.   

Underwriters were not allowed to nominate underwriters in their own business.

The long lists of underwriters were sent to the respective insurers and a validation request made to the CEO or CUO.  Businesses were given the opportunity to suggest that particular underwriters were removed from the list and each such request was assessed on its merits.  The vast majority of removals related to those leaving or about to leave employment. We achieved a 71% validation rate though this process.  The remaining nominated underwriters were validated using published sources such as insurer websites, press and LinkedIn.

The full Report containing the whole dataset will be available to Market Insurers.

A link will be made available to all underwriters who achieved nominations and this will offer details of the number of nominations they received and ranking.

ABOUT GRACECHURCH

Gracechurch advises the insurance sector’s ambitious people. We are independent specialists in providing insights and direction for leaders who want to transform and grow their businesses. We are precise in our analysis, honest in our interpretation, and inspire confidence in clients who want to make ambitious changes. Our clients make better decisions because of the knowledge we bring them, and because of the confidence that inspires.

Gracechurch was set up in London in 2000 as a unique research business: focused on the insurance sector, to provide actionable insights, and committed to helping clients improve. The Gracechurch Underwriting and Claims Reports “The Gracechurch Reports” are now recognised as industry standards, with many clients quoting our findings in their own plans and Annual Reports.

Our industry-wide reputation extends beyond our London base, and has led to our working with clients in the US and now for the first time in Asia. The key learnings from the past 15 years are that technical skill has become a commercial hygiene factor, whereas good service, building strong relationships and strong communications are the factors that now really give competitive edge in an increasingly crowded and competitive market.  Lately we have been working with several large insurers on developing customer-led brand propositions; the success of these initiatives is measured through the benchmarking.  This benchmarking shows that the value of the insurers is increasingly being built on a solid and trustworthy corporate reputation rather than on pure trading acumen.