Interview with an Underwriting Director: Steve Allen

Steve Allen joined GCube in July of this year from RSA Group. He brings with him a wealth of experience in the insurance business, as well as a decade of work primarily in the renewables insurance markets. We are delighted to welcome him to the team; and, now that he is settled in, we sat down to ask about his experience since joining GCube, and his thoughts on the wider industry – particularly in the US – going forwards.

First, by way of introduction, could you tell us a bit about your background and your past experience at RSA Group?

Of course – well, I recently celebrated the dubious milestone of 29 years in the insurance industry. Most of my career – 23 years – has been spent at RSA, in two separate stints. I spent 6 years there as a Commercial Underwriter when I first entered the business, then I worked for about 5 years as a broker. The last 17 or so years were spent with RSA, this time in London, working in what you might loosely call the engineering and energy space. After some years as an underwriter, mainly in power generation, renewables, construction and machinery breakdown, I was promoted to head up the London team. My role included responsibility for Profit and Loss (P&L), people leadership and the management of underwriting strategy.

Was this your position when you left RSA Group?

Yes – I had a team of 20 people at RSA when I left in March. We were successful; the team had grown from 3-4 to 20 people in about 10 years, and we were one of RSA’s best-performing divisions. However, I wanted a new challenge in a different organisation, which is what brought me to GCube.

Can you outline your new role at GCube?

I head up the US underwriting team. Stuart Burchell manages the same responsibilities for the UK, and so we’re collaborating to drive the business forward together.

How have your first couple of months been?

They’ve been very positive. I’ve been particularly struck by the depth and breadth of expertise at GCube; my colleagues have great insight into the industry and everything we do is directly informed by current events and market trends. Following the recent Nat Cat events, which we’ve stayed abreast of with daily updates, we’ve had clients comment on how well informed we are and how efficiently we’ve managed that information – which is great to see, having just joined GCube. It’s also great that underwriters and claims teams here collaborate – there is a regular communication and dialogue between them, which is very powerful.

Can I ask about your experiences on a personal level?

I’m really enjoying working at GCube. There’s a great atmosphere in the offices and Fraser and the senior team are very visible. Since joining, I’ve spent a lot of time out in the market – saying hello, letting people know where I am and what my new role entails. I went over to the US for the Advisory Council in Nashville and had some business meetings in New York on the way back – it was great to see old contacts and make some new acquaintances as well.

What was your impression of the Advisory Council?

I thought it was a fantastic event. We had some great external people presenting, as well as some of GCube’s most senior people. It’s important to balance the knowledge sharing and relationship building aspects of these events – and the Advisory Council created a good sociable atmosphere. Our feedback forms from attendees indicate that the event was informative and enjoyable – which is the most important thing.

Moving on to the wider insurance forecasts, what, in your view, is the outlook for renewables across North America as we move into 2018?

Well, of course everybody is talking about the recent spate of hurricanes and earthquakes – and which, unfortunately, we’re likely to see more of as we’re currently only half way through the season. One issue we’re seeing is that events are not corresponding with the Nat Cat prediction models which people rely on; this needs to be addressed urgently.

Apart from the damage they cause, the Nat Cat events are exposing problems within the industry – and at the moment, with the insurance business dealing with tight margins, there is an expectation that many insurers will not make a profit this year. The problems are partly due to the ‘soft’ market and under-priced premiums, but also because of contract wording. Brokers, naturally doing their best for their clients, broaden wordings to give them bigger limits and fewer exclusions, which all has an impact on insurers’ bottom line.

Aside from Nat Cat, there’s the ongoing challenge of keeping up with technology, and ensuring we have solutions in place as new technology develops. The continued increase in the size of wind turbines, for instance, comes with its own challenges, and we need to keep up in terms of the data we gather so that we can share our knowledge with customers, allowing them to make better buying decisions.

You mention problems within the insurance industry, which have been exposed by recent Nat Cat events. How will GCube respond to these challenges?

As a market leader, GCube is expected to be a driver of behaviour. We now need to make sure that there is a bit of rebalancing – insurers are struggling, and ultimately that’s not good for anyone. However, our actions always have the customer at heart – we act for the long-term good of our organisation, to make sure that GCube is around in the long term to support and protect our clients. And of course, everything we do will be in accordance with correct standards of governance.