Near to the completion of my ACII studies my career as an underwriter took a change of direction. I moved from an underwriting agency specialising in household property insurance to join an international commercial property team at a major Lloyd's syndicate, XYZ Ltd. The opportunities to expand my knowledge and participation in the international commercial property business was a fantastic opportunity from a career point of view but also presented a great challenge to me in terms of my own personal development. My Fellowship plan was therefore based on my personal development as an international commercial property underwriter and the pursuit of my stated objective 'to realise the opportunities presented by making the most of the resources available to me at XYZ Ltd.'
Not long after formulating my Fellowship plan I began to realise that I might not be able to achieve all of my stated objectives at XYZ Ltd because of factors beyond my control which are discussed later in this SPA. For these reasons I eventually decided to look elsewhere to achieve my goals and was fortunate to be offered a position as an international commercial property underwriter at another Lloyd's syndicate, LMN Ltd, in May 2001.
Formulating my Fellowship plan caused me to reflect on my career so far and to articulate in words a plan that I had already embarked on, albeit with a less structured consideration of how I would achieve my objectives and the potential problems I could encounter. I started at XYZ Ltd approximately 10 months before submitting my Fellowship plan. The Fellowship plan SWOT analysis established my strengths as expertise in household property business, a niche area of property insurance and the value of contacts I already had around the world relative to that niche industry. My weaknesses were my lack of experience outside of my niche area, a weakness which I later had to work hard to address at XYZ Ltd. The opportunities were significant offering me a chance to get into the mainstream of international commercial property business in Lloyd's and it appeared that a senior management position might also be possible at XYZ Ltd. The threats were identified as being the limited time available to harness resources and to take advantage of the opportunities before market conditions changed.
My major achievement is my BA (Hons) degree in Insurance studies which I completed in 1999 with a 2.1 grading. The first quarter of this course overlapped with the completion of my ACII in April 1998. My degree was a modular course consisting of eight units taken over four semesters. Some of the units were compulsory and included macro-economics, modern insurance law and strategic management. Three units could be selected from a list of agreed subjects and the eighth unit was a dissertation.
As stated above, my Fellowship plan expressed a programme I had already embarked on. It made me focus upon a two-fold objective: 1) to develop as a leading underwriter in international commercial property insurance and 2) to progress in the management hierarchy at XYZ Ltd. I considered that my knowledge of household property insurance could be valuable in the development of service-based products and would help my personal development.
Changes to plan
In April 2000, however, I began to realise that that I would probably not be able to attain my objectives at XYZ Ltd. for reasons largely beyond my control. A number of syndicates including XYZ Ltd. had begun to forecast poor underwriting results for the property business generally. A loss of confidence in the international property business generally led XYZ Ltd. to examine its business and to re-focus on its core UK property and nonmarine liability business. As a result of this I felt that I was unlikely, as an international commercial property underwriter, to progress in the management hierarchy of XYZ Ltd.
The realisation that I would not be able to develop as I had planned at XYZ Ltd was a great disappointment. I had learned a lot there and felt that it was an extremely well managed company. It opened my eyes to how an underwriting business should be run and it made me realise quickly that I still had much to learn about insurance business generally. The approach to business, reporting functions and controls identified the key areas that are critical to underwriting successfully whatever the class of business. There was also an absolute focus on profitability.
Self learning and awareness
At times I found it difficult to make the adjustments needed to become a successful international commercial property underwriter. With guidance from my managers and peers at XYZ Ltd I completed the transformation and this enabled me to market my skills in this business area and eventually to take the position as international commercial property underwriter at LMN Ltd. Managing change has been a recurring theme in my development and I feel that in achieving my Fellowship plan objectives I have learned to use changing circumstances to work to my advantage.
Key skills and knowledge acquired
Completing my degree has also been very valuable. I covered a broad range of subjects and developed skills some of which I had previously considered to be unimportant for an underwriter. For example, I completed a public relations module which gave me a great insight into how to manage PR and how to handle negative as well as positive situations. Most of the modules, but the dissertation in particular, taught me how to research subjects effectively. This skill is not just useful as an academic tool. Undoubtedly it enabled me to develop a technical publication which I edited and launched successfully as XYZ commercial property news. In addition, from a commercial point of view, I now find that I can access sources of information very quickly and this reinforces the underwriting decision-making process.
The past eleven months have been a very testing time for me at LMN Ltd. The exposure as line underwriter has enabled me to develop very rapidly into the management position to which I had aspired three years ago. Overall the experience impacted positively on my personal as well as commercial development.
Intentions for the future
Although I now occupy the position I set my sights on three years ago, I still consider that learning and development are an on-going part of my commercial life. I reflect frequently on my underwriting decisions to try to identify mistakes early and to see if there are better ways of doing things. My development over the last three years has given me a very strong grounding as an international commercial property underwriter but I will continue to develop my personal skills and to test objectives for personal as well as management development. Current market conditions remain very unstable and no one can afford to be complacent over their skills and knowledge. I intend to use all that I have learned and to build on this to anticipate and react to a changing environment.