State of the insurance market with Julian James, CEO, International Insurance at Sompo International
“I remember the days of being a young broker and being given a slip and asking to get 400 stamps from various Lloyd’s syndicates, and that wasn’t a particularly valuable use of anyone’s time” Julian James, Chief Executive Officer, International Insurance at Sompo International.
Imagine having to do that in today’s insurance risk environment. In this episode, Julian James talks about digitising insurance processes, diversity in the workplace, pricing, Lloyd’s, and expansion plans for Sompo International. He also touches on the implications of Covid-19 for the insurance industry.
Evaluating insurance risk in a remote capacity
One of the most thought-provoking parts from an already highly informative and interesting chat is when Julian discusses how to balance digitising processes and insurance risk evaluation while keeping the face-to-face interaction that is so vital to the insurance industry, and which is part of its DNA. While offices largely remain empty, and we are all left to wonder if and when we will ever return on a permanent basis, the ease at which the insurance industry switched to remote working full-time shouldn’t necessarily mean the end of a physical presence when negotiating business.
Our philosophy is that technology should support Underwriters to make better underwriting decisions and risk management analysis by understanding risk at a more granular level and having the ability to automate more decisions via analytic and intelligent learning. By automating manual processes, Underwriters are liberated to focus on higher-value tasks that generate income, foster product innovation, and enable them to spend more time on relationship building activities with clients.
Leap of Faith
As Julian puts it, “One thing that has come out of this terrible situation (Covid-19) is that it has given everybody the courage to take the leap of faith for digital transactions – we’ve all been dancing around that for some years…. but underneath all of that, there is still in my mind, and you might call me old-fashioned, a very strong need for face-to-face interaction, and we will get back to face-to-face interaction.” Julian explains that although in-person negotiations are part of the London Market’s secret sauce, which has contributed to its place on the world insurance stage, a return to doing business in and around Lime Street would be welcomed. However, the market should not lose the ground it has gained in the past few months from digitising processes that underpin face-to-face interactions.
Julian also comments on the frictional costs in the insurance business and the amount of time spent on tasks that do provide value to clients.
Underwriters currently use a patchwork of numerous and often antiquated insurance administration systems that barely integrate with each other, leading to operational inefficiencies. Automating aspects of the commercial underwriting process, along with providing new business insights and risk-specific knowledge, enables Insurers and Underwriters to perform optimally. When combined with an Underwriter’s intellectual property and experience, insurance risk mitigation tools and analytics-enriched insights allow the creation of new products, entry into emerging markets, and the understanding of risk at new levels of granularity. Underwriters can proactively and efficiently manage their pipeline and business plans, with the ability to quote accurately and quickly.
As Julian James succinctly puts it, “Digitalisation of transaction and documentation is the route to get us to where we need to be,” – we couldn’t agree more.