Paul Drake is the chief underwriting officer for Bluefin
Underwriting. He talks to Simon Miller
about the industry and how it expanded his horizons.
“When you see tangible evidence of the industry’s response to major incidents, it makes you realise how worthwhile the job we do is”
- How did you get into this industry?
The truth is it was more by luck than judgement. Having decided against pursuing a degree in medicine, my father, a career City banker, introduced me to the bright lights of the London financial sector. Lloyd’s of London particularly stood out to me as a fascinating market and I began a career spanning over 20 years working with Lloyd’s syndicates.
- What is good about the industry?
From a personal perspective, working in the industry, particularly with Lloyd’s, has allowed me to travel extensively across the world, often to places I never would have thought likely, including Syria, Beirut and much of Asia.
However, more than anything, what makes the industry so great is its response in times of crisis and loss. This really is at the heart of what we do but when you see tangible evidence of the industry’s response to major incidents, it makes you realise how worthwhile the job we do is.
- What don’t you like?
For too long now there’s been an excess of capital sloshing around the market. In years gone by, we saw soft and hard markets working in cycles and reacting to major losses, but that just doesn’t seem to happen anymore.
There is also the danger of excessive regulation. Vital though it is to regulate working practices to ensure fair and ethical trading for customers, there does need to be a good balance between over-regulating businesses and potentially stifling them, or giving them too much leniency leading to complacency and excess. Many would argue that the balance is tipped to the former. We are, of course, completely supportive of a fairly regulated environment which protects clients and customers and the industry has accomplished much in ensuring this.
- What is the most unusual area of your business?
Well you could say that much of our business is in some way unusual as, being a managing general agent (MGA), we inevitably look to write cover for areas that standard insurers would not necessarily choose to write. This supports the MGA model and allows us to compete. We currently have a number of specialisms including farming, agriculture, charities, hauliers and marine.
- What has been the most unusual request to underwrite?
In our specialisms, most of our requests are pretty ordinary and not that unusual, but in my previous life as a Lloyd’s underwriter, I have insured unusual risks ranging from a famous singer’s legs to the transportation of a live whale across the Atlantic.
- What challenges does Bluefin Underwriting face?
Like any business we face a number of challenges. Unsurprisingly, the biggest is the competitiveness of the market in which we operate, which is showing no discernible sign of change. But this is the environment for the foreseeable future and we need to find ways of differentiating our products and services in a way that appeals to brokers and clients.
- Where next for Bluefin Underwriting?
We have a clear plan that we are implementing which will help us grow to be the ‘go-to’ insurer for brokers that are important to us and in the markets in which we operate. In addition, we’re looking to add further specialisms and expand our product offering. This will be based on proven, knowledgeable underwriters, acting diligently as agents of our insurer partners, ensuring longevity and security of capacity commitment and broker client support.
Underwriting is here for the long term as part of a “grown up insurance group”. It is not a ‘market burning’, speculative MGA venture, with no substance behind it.
Number of employees: 81
Areas covered: Agriculture, third sector, financial lines, transport and liabilities and property