Allied World’s Australia office has enjoyed enviable success since opening in 2014. Between 2017 and 2020 GWP nearly quadrupled from AU$23 million to AU$91 million. Iain MacLeod, Allied World’s senior vice president and Australia country manager, sat down with Insurance Business to share some insights.
When the affable Brit accepted a transfer from Allied World’s Singapore office in 2017 to lead the new Australia operation, he brought three decades of insurance industry experience gained in London, New York, Bermuda and Singapore.
MacLeod insists that any achievements in Australia are the result of hiring the right people from the get-go.
“It goes back to the Allied World way of building out a new office - ensuring you have those right building blocks in place,” he said. “People are the most important part of that.”
He says hiring people who are willing to grow with the company helps ensure consistency and transcends into how you look at your business.
“You want to make sure you are sustainable, that you’re there providing insurance solutions for your clients over the long term while building up strong relationships with brokers and a good solid book of business,” he explained.
Globally, the company employs over 1,400 people and, in 2017, became a subsidiary of the Canadian giant Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited. Despite being part of a much larger global entity, MacLeod maintains that Allied World’s “roll up your sleeves” work culture has also played a key part in driving the appeal for brokers and clients to work with Allied World.
“We like to use the expression, ‘act like you’re the owner of the business,’ and everyone gets involved in contributing ideas and getting hands on with the delivery of those ideas,” he said. “It’s important we build the business with team-players who can balance being results oriented while also having fun at work.”
MacLeod describes it as a start-up mentality and culture.
“At an underwriting level, that means we remain open minded to opportunities and focus on our service and ability to respond well to our broker partners,” he said. “This is really what sets us apart, I believe - that blend of local empowerment combined with the global reach and financial strength that comes from being part of Fairfax’s $19 billion family.”
That includes cultivating close relationships with target brokers throughout Australia.
“We tend to focus on 15 or 16 brokers who understand our appetite and understand what we’re trying to do,” he explained. “This creates a much more efficient process - in that there’s a trust that can be built up fairly quickly.”
Prior to MacLeod’s appointment in Australia, the market was seeing the first stages of turning.
“We saw the beginning of a hardening market and certainly some capacity dislocation in Australia,” he said. “Given the circumstances, we felt that with our key products we could make a difference and a really positive impact in the Australian market.”
He credits the company’s rapid growth with its capacity to move into lines of business that others were pulling back from.
“We’ve seen a lot of market dislocation, carriers pulling back from certain areas of business or reducing line size or becoming more cautious in Australia,” he said. “This really opened the door to enable us, certainly on the larger corporate insurance and those quota share programs, to offer much needed capacity in what was becoming a shrinking capacity marketplace.”
In Australia, Allied World focuses on: property and casualty, professional lines, construction & engineering, healthcare liability and marine cargo. MacLeod says they aim to build “a formidable base of diversification” in each business line.
“In the construction industry we’ve recently launched our industry vertical proposition,” he said. “It’s a multi-line solution for clients in the construction industry, enabling us to provide a single point of contact for multiple coverages across the life-stage of a construction project.”
The Australian office has taken advantage of opportunities, but the Allied World SVP says there’s actually not a lot of difference between their lines of business in Australia compared to their operations in other countries.
“There’s always a slight regional difference, but if you look back at the traditional lines of business that Allied World has become best known for: property, casualty and professional lines, those are still our cornerstone businesses,” he noted.
He says this culture, consistency and taking the long-term approach is always key to any new office that Allied World opens internationally.
MacLeod says service is front and centre in what they do, referring to a recent company survey stating that, internationally, 99.9% of claims are paid without a coverage dispute and nine out of 10 customers are likely to recommend them to a colleague.
“Fundamentally, we’re here to pay claims, that’s the true job of any insurer and if you fail on that front you fail in a lot of places,” he said. “So, paying claims is probably the most crucial piece, certainly from a customer standpoint, which means we stand by our products and the policies we sell.”
He says this all depends on having the right claims personnel in Australia with strong support in Hong Kong and Singapore, together with competent legal counsel.
“It’s based on people at the end of the day and making sure we respond well and consistently,” he concluded.