Ensuring that everything works as Lion Underwriting grows – that’s the seemingly straightforward, yet all-important, responsibility bestowed upon Sara McLoughlin (pictured) in her new capacity as head of operations at the Queensland agency.
“A big part of the operations role is being more heavily involved in the compliance side of things,” said the former administration manager who was elevated to the post effective this month. “Compliance and HR are the two big changes to my role; compliance, in particular, with all the changes to regulations and the code this year.
“There’s been a real step-up in the requirements of our business in terms of compliance, so that’s causing a lot of extra work for us. Part of my role is to step into that to make sure that we’re ticking all the boxes and that we’re meeting all our compliance requirements.”
McLoughlin, though, has not always been part of the back office. In fact, she has a “core foundation of underwriting” that the promoted executive believes helps in giving her a wider appreciation of the task at hand.
Talking about her beginnings, the operations head told Insurance Business: “I’m originally from Northern Ireland. I did a business degree, and from that I basically just fell into insurance. My first real job after university was with an underwriting agency in Liverpool. That’s where my insurance career started.
“I was there for about seven years and then moved to Australia, and we’ve been based in the Brisbane, Gold Coast area ever since. My background was really more of underwriting roles, but as time progressed I found that I’ve had more of a keen interest in the back office side of things.”
Having seen things from both sides and having a greater understanding of the workings within an underwriting company, McLoughlin said she is “quite happy” to do the more back office aspect of the business – the documentation, the accounts, the support roles and HR, and the compliance.
Number one challenge
In the last month alone, according to McLoughlin, Lion Underwriting welcomed three new colleagues in line with providing support for a growing organisation.
“Keeping up with the growth of Lion really is our biggest challenge at the moment,” she noted, “making sure that we’re adequately resourced, that we have the right systems and technology in place to keep moving forward, and to make sure that we’re able to continue to service our brokers and not lose that touch and the communication we have with them as we grow.”
The operations head highlighted that among the priorities is sourcing the right staff and making sure that everyone has the appropriate training.
On the company’s near-term recruitment prospects, she said: “At the moment we’re just assessing where we go with the new additions. Obviously when someone new joins the business, it takes a little bit of time for them to settle in.
“We potentially do still have a couple of roles to fill in the near future, but at the moment we’re really focussing on this busy June period that’s coming up. That’s the focus of everyone’s attention right now. After June, we’ll have a look and reassess things from there and see what our needs are.”
On a personal level, McLoughlin is keen to face the changes head-on. “I’m always interested in new challenges and in challenging myself,” she told Insurance Business. “So, I’m looking forward to getting into the new role to test myself, to challenge myself, and just see what comes from the growth that Lion has been experiencing.”
As for the crucial contribution of the back office, McLoughlin said: “Everyone’s familiar with the role that underwriters do, but I think there’s maybe a bit of a lack of recognition for what the back office support does in insurers and underwriting agencies. It’s a very big and very important part of every business.”