Get to Know Your Underwriters: Alex Emerson
Following on from our latest ‘Get to Know Your Underwriters’ Q&A with Cordelia Powell, we recently sat down with Alex Emerson - Underwriter to discuss how he got first got started in the industry, his predictions for the future and what helps him stay focused.
Q: How long have you been with Bell & Clements?
Alex: I’ve been with Bell & Clements for around a year and a half now. Joining the company right in the middle of the pandemic, it took a number of months before I was actually able to meet the majority of my new colleagues in person, which was certainly a unique way start to a new job.
Prior to joining Bell & Clements, I worked for both the broking and underwriting arms of a London broker and, during the latter part of my employment there, the broking arm struck up a relationship with the direct property team at Bell & Clements, so I had some experience with my future colleagues before making the move.
Q: How did you get into underwriting?
Alex: Before getting my first full-time job in insurance, I was lucky enough to have two work experience stints: one with an MGA and another with a Lloyd’s syndicate. Through sitting with underwriters at both companies, I developed a real interest in the underwriting process and decided that in the future it would be my goal to underwrite professionally. Later, as a broker, I oversaw a small business facility, which required pre-qualifying risks, and that led to me hopping the fence and spending some time working for a D&F MGA within the same company. Shortly after, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to join Bell & Clements as an underwriter, seeing a lot of the business I had previous brokered, but now from the other side.
Q: What is the biggest change you have seen over the past five years in the insurance market and what are your predictions for the insurance market over the next five years?
Alex: Without a doubt, the increase in implementation of digital technology in insurance. When I first started, huge paper files were still very much the norm and, although digital placing platforms had been trialed, marching to Lloyd’s with a bulging slipcase packed full of paper primed to push under underwriters’ noses was, still by and large, the only way to broke. Now, with Placing Platform Limited (PPL), digital aggregators and even fully digital underwriters established, there are numerous alternative ways to place business. Whilst a knock-on effect from the pandemic has been the accelerated necessitation of digital solutions, certainly from the perspective of Lloyd’s and the London market as a whole, this needed to happen regardless, as the remainder of the insurance world was already way ahead in this regard.
Although perhaps behind on the technological front, what Lloyd’s and the London market have already is a reputation for strong client relationships. My prediction for the next 5 years is that, while digital implementation may well increase, there will be a jostling for position between the new and old, that is, the ease of service provided by digital solutions and the human element provided by face-to-face interactions and building of relationships. Bulging slip cases may be on the wane, but it is my hope that a balance can be found whereby both elements can exist and benefit one another harmoniously, as each brings important benefits to the customers of the insurance market.
Q: What helps you stay focused?
Alex: Variety. Our team deals with many clients from different territories in North America so, on a day-to-day basis, we can consider a plethora of different business classes, geographical challenges and risk management approaches. No two risks are identical and that keeps the work interesting.
Q: How do you unwind at the end of busy day/week?
Alex: I am an enthusiastic, if mostly terrible, golfer. In the winter you’ll find me down at the driving range, lamenting not being on the course and in the summer, I’ll be on the course, lamenting not spending more time on the driving range.