Get to Know Your Underwriters: Mark Gadd
Mark Gadd, Head of Direct Underwriting has taken part in our our "Get to Know Your Underwriters" series. During the discussion Mark covered his career background, how his team has adapted since the pandemic began and what he wished he's known when first coming into the industry.
Q: How long have you been with Bell & Clements?
Mark: I have been with Bell & Clements for around two and a half years now. I initially joined to help manage the Transportation underwriting team but have recently had my role expanded to head up Direct Underwriting. This is a new position at Bell & Clements and is primarily designed to manage at this point, the transactional portfolios of both Transportation and Commercial Property underwriting teams.
A broking house that I was with a few years ago now had, and still has, a good trading relationship with Bell & Clements, so I had the advantage of knowing a number of people here before I joined. This made the transition much easier and consequently sometimes it does feel that I have been with Bell & Clements a lot longer than just two and a half years.
Q: How did you get into underwriting?
Mark: I originally started in the Surplus Lines market as a Broker and the last broking house that I worked for was also a Lloyd’s and a Great Lakes Insurance SE coverholder. Over time, I found more business being referred to me by the team internally – this began with the basic stuff like agreeing proposal forms, endorsements and so on. After a while this grew to encompass renewals and then new business. I found that as much as I enjoyed broking, I also liked being in a position where I could review a piece of business and make more of an informed decision as to the correct rate, terms, conditions and so on.
The opportunity then arose to join a Lloyd’s syndicate. This gave me an opportunity to be more fully involved in writing business, doing so in a leading position in the market, as well as interacting with some very talented people for the first time. These included actuaries, data scientists and compliance people – and I was also able to learn the extent that the models take in determining the management of an underwriting portfolio.
Q: How have you had to adapt in order to continue delivering value to clients and customers since the pandemic began?
Mark: Prior to the pandemic, some of the work we did was still paper orientated and certainly with our London broker relationships, a number of risks were handled face to face. In common with everyone else in London, we travelled on a regular basis to the US for conferences, office visits etc.
Our team did a fantastic job in moving to a completely paperless environment for day-to-day business – and managed to do so very quickly. Also, the face-to-face element of the job – like everywhere else – moved to e-mail or the virtual environment.
This meant that the impact on service levels remained constant throughout the pandemic. Now that hopefully, the pandemic is coming to an end, the tools and skills that we have gained during the past 18 months or so will continue to be of great help to us in servicing the business. For example, as you might expect, we will not be going back to handling business on a paper based basis. Also, carrying out virtual meetings, or a hybrid with some attending in person and others on a screen, will continue to be valuable.
Having said that though, I do think that there is still merit to meeting in-person and I’m glad that for the most part there has been some sort of normality return we can start meeting in-person once again. From an overall business perspective, the skills needed to be able to meet, talk and present virtually were challenging to begin with for a number of us I think but now I think we now consider this part of our routine.
Q: What do you know now that you had wish you had known when you first started in the industry?
Mark: Three main points that I wish I would have known when I joined the industry –
- First and most importantly, don’t be afraid in being proactive when managing your career; work out what you want, which granted, may be a bit difficult to do if you are a complete new starter to the industry, but then work out how best to go about accomplishing it. While you are figuring that out, don’t be afraid in approaching others for advice in how to achieve your goals.
- Second, don’t be afraid in having to change jobs or roles to accomplish what you are aiming for. This might be a bit easier to do before you have things like a mortgage to worry about, but if you are not in a position where ultimately you will not get empowered or gain those experiences to progress, are you in the right place or are you stagnating? The choice of team to work in is equally as important.
- Third and finally, don’t be afraid in using connections – the people that you meet in the industry along the way are vitally important – whether this takes the form of gaining advice for personal reasons or business opportunities, it is still a relationship industry and building an effective network is paramount.
Q: How do you unwind at the end of a busy day/week?
Mark: I’m quite fortunate in that we live in a village. At the end of the day and each week, I like to take the dog out for a long walk, through the fields that surround the village. I guess it’s a bit unusual nowadays but to completely unwind, I also tend to leave my phone at home as well so I can really get away from e-mail, messages and so on, but it works for me.
If you would like to know more about our Direct Underwriting solutions, you can explore our range of products and find out more about our underwriting approach here.