"Are we keeping the guy who pays the premium happy?"

Executive reminds us of what matters most in insurance

"Are we keeping the guy who pays the premium happy?"

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

With all the major changes insurance is going through such as insurtech and disruption, this insurance leader thinks that the industry may be forgetting the most important thing: Is it keeping its clients satisfied?

Insurance Business spoke with Matthew Cannock, managing director of Markel Asia, regarding his journey in the insurance industry and the challenges he faces in his role. He began his professional career in marine engineering, but according to him, while he enjoyed the design work, he felt deskbound and lacked opportunities to meet and interact with people.

From there, he joined a Lloyd’s insurance brokerage, where he worked in a people-focused environment that allowed him to utilise his technical knowledge. After five years in London, he relocated to Singapore.

“I was really fortunate to have a great boss who taught me that you have to be able to underwrite a risk before you can broker it,” he said. “So when I was then offered an underwriting job, the transition was fairly smooth. Over time I became responsible for more lines of business across a wider geography which has led me to where I am today.”

Cannock recalled the first risk he wrote, which was neither particularly large nor complicated, but he kept on going through it until it “ran clean”.

“I don’t tend to dwell on those decisions now as much as I did (or encourage the team here to) but having a healthy respect for what we do and being personally responsible for decisions that are undertaken is a vitally important part of underwriting.”

Cannock believes that had he not entered the insurance industry, he would’ve remained in marine engineering and possibly going out to sea.

“Although, ironically, I have probably seen more of the world being in insurance!” he said.

The frequent travel associated with his job makes him long for home and spend as much time as possible with his wife and daughters.

“It’s relaxing and great fun but they also remind me of my priorities,” he said. He believes these priorities extend far beyond the financial aspect of insurance.

“Insurance is one of the great enablers of the world of commerce and as it changes, we must stay relevant as well,” he said. “With so much change going on, it is very easy to forget the key fundamental of our business: Are we keeping the guy who pays the premium happy? If we can honestly say that we are and we constantly strive to try and make him happier, then our industry will be in good shape.”

He also recalled the first major loss he encountered, which he described as “horrible”, but seeing the positive effect the payout had on the client lightened the burden a bit.

“As insurers, we are often very wrapped up in our own world and tend to rarely appreciate the disruption that a major loss can have on an insured’s business, particularly when there has been loss of life,” he said. “Being able to assist people in their hour of need is one of the privileges of working in the insurance industry and forms some of my most memorable experiences.”

Having seen more of the world due to insurance, Cannock encouraged fellow professionals to be curious.

“Listen, learn and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” he said. “Never worry that you will look stupid by putting your hand up and asking questions in a meeting. In my experience, it is the smartest guys who ask the most questions. It is also important to have patience.”

Finally, hearkening back to his marine background, he gave some encouragement to those who feel stranded in their career.

“Insurance careers rarely progress on a consistent, upward curve and there will be periods where you will worry that you have become becalmed. Keep asking, learning, and trying to get better and you will become successful.”



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