A little over eighteen months ago, Sean McGovern, CEO UK & Lloyd’s market, AXA XL, spoke for the first time on The Voice of Insurance podcast when he was less than a year into his first industry CEO role. In that episode, AXA XL was in the middle of remediation of AXA XL´s book. Sean spoke about his plans for the role and how AXA XL was empowering underwriters.
Fast forward to summer 2022, and AXA XL´s Syndicate posted a 75% combined ratio in 2021, a 59-point improvement on the previous year. In this week´s episode, Sean discusses a wide range of subjects from business growth, the major challenges affecting the London Market as a whole, regulation, the importance of data ingestion and data standardisation, and the value of intelligent underwriting.
Kicking off the discussion, Mark asks about AXA XL´s remediation work, Sean discusses how 2021 was a key year for the business, commenting, “For us, 2021 was a pivotal year for a whole bunch of reasons… and Syndicate 2003 went from being one of the Syndicates with consistent poor performance in the Lloyd´s market to one of the best with that combined ratio of 75%.”
Speaking further about performance, Sean says, “If you look at the performance history of the Syndicate, we had to take a very hard and very fresh look in the mirror at what was working and what was not working, and frankly, we used the opportunity we had to redefine everything about our business and did that in a very strategic way.” Sean discusses how the company asked itself what lines do they want to be in, what appetite they have across the business, what´s their ceded strategy, how it uses the Lloyd´s platform vs their non-Lloyd´s platform, and ultimately, how do they want to go to market to serve brokers and clients. Sean says that the company didn´t shy away from making any of the tough decisions and that there were certain things they had to stop doing either because they weren´t delivering or were no longer the right strategic fit.
Discussing how the company took the opportunity to look hard at what it was doing and to make decisions to set us up for the future, Sean adds, “We did all that because it wasn´t just about delivering strong performance in 2021 as important as that was, that, of course, was just table stakes for us. It was about building a portfolio that ultimately played to our strengths and that we believed were sustainable in the long-term because ultimately we wanted to create a platform in which we have confidence in and confidence in that we can grow from.”
As the conversation turns to technology, Mark brings up the Core Data Record, and if it is the final ingredient that will have the big bang effect in the London market, Sean remarks, “I think it´s certainly foundational; I think it´s a key part of the foundations on which we can now build. It´s got support from the LMG Data Council. I think everybody agrees that we need to start with data.” Sean goes on to discuss how everyone in the market is looking at the same type of data but in different structures and formats, adding, “So the standardisation of the core data fields required to bind a risk, I mean it sounds very simple but we haven´t had that really before in any meaningful way, and without that, you can´t really then drive efficiency and speed through the rest of the process.” Sean remarks that the market needs to look at moving from document first - digital first, and even though people will be making that journey at different speeds, the market needs to start somewhere, and agreeing on minimal data structure is an important first step.
In the future, the market will presumably be more digital, comments Mark; what environment will that create for a carrier like AXA XL, and what´s his vision for the company? Sean replies, “Having fully turned around the business, it´s now about making the business future proof, and that is all about getting ready to ingest and to be able to analyse data and process that data digitally in as most efficient way you can.” Sean comments how this is a critical area for the business, adding, “Our ambition ultimately is we want to be an underwriting business that is tech and data led – that´s where we´re going to have to go to, and everybody is on that journey.”
Speaking about adding value and augmented underwriting, Sean says, “Our value is in being a leader, our value is underwriting intelligently, and the use of technology, the use of AI is about augmenting our underwriting; it´s not about replacing it.”
We highly recommend you listen to his informative and engaging podcast.
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