The insurance industry is broad, giving professionals many opportunities to hop from one expertise and market to another. Insurely founder and director John Hardiman shared with Insurance Business how he gained a wealth of knowledge despite working with only one insurer for the majority of his career.
The old cliché of falling into insurance applies yet again for Hardiman, who was inspired by his good friend to enter the industry.
“A good friend of mine, Hayden Chapman, started at QBE a year before me, and I kept hearing good things about his job and how much he enjoyed the industry. When an opening came up at his work to apply after finishing university, I jumped at it,” Hardiman said.
“Also, at that stage, Hayden was doing his best impression of Bud Fox in Wall Street with his fancy suits and briefcase, so that may have unduly influenced my decision.”
Hardiman, who had stayed at QBE for over a decade, started his insurance career as an assistant account executive, effectively an assistant underwriter, in the commercial team.
Speaking about his first role, Hardiman said: “I worked with a great underwriter called Gareth Allan, who taught me loads about how everything worked, including lots of ‘old school’ underwriting techniques for arriving at rates and understanding risks. The wider team under Graham Sanders and Dave Penfold was also such a great group of people and definitely quite ‘social’, come Friday drinks at 4pm.”
He then moved to the UK to focus on underwriting – a different market, but coincidentally the same company, where he worked as a property underwriter in the London Market team.
“Like many Kiwis, I got itchy feet for an OE in my mid-20s. After some time hopping around Europe, it was back to London to look for work, and it was pure chance it ended up being QBE where I managed to get a job, right when the financial crisis was kicking off,” he said.
“Coincidentally, I was experiencing a financial crisis after far too much gallivanting in Continental Europe, so the job was very appreciated. [It was an] amazing experience where I was typically dealing with at least one more ‘zero’ added to the back end of all the numbers when compared to NZ.”
Speaking about the UK market, Hardiman said: “The market was so vibrant, and the variety of risks was incredible. I was lucky to insure and visit some amazing risks and places, including tunnels in Hungary, a Martini plant in Italy, and schools in Northern Island, among many other things.”
After five years in the UK, Hardiman felt he had made the most of his time in Europe, so it was time to go back to New Zealand, where his close contacts with QBE helped him move back into a local property underwriting role at QBE Auckland. He took the head of property and engineering role focusing on the Hong Kong market, which was somehow different from his previous roles.
Speaking about the position, he said: “Definitely a case of ‘who you know’ on this one! A good friend in London is also friends with the head of property for QBE Asia, and he suggested my name for the head of property role in Hong Kong. I jumped at the chance as my wife and I had been quietly considering Asia for the next move anyway, so the timing couldn’t have been better.”
He noted the difference of the Hong Kong market from the previous two: “Hong Kong was something else – it’s truly alive and has amazing energy. I was lucky to have a great team over there, and we managed to drive some big changes. That really helped to improve their results.”
After over two years, Hardiman once again decided to find a new challenge, working briefly at Chubb as a New Zealand property manager.
“[It was] a similar role to Hong Kong in many ways, leading the property team here in Auckland. The underwriters I managed are some of the superstars of Chubb in the region; what they deliver for the business is incredible, and I was always impressed by what they accomplished,” he said.
After over a year, Hardiman decided to quit his job and use his wealth of knowledge and experience to become an insurance boss by collaborating with Insurely co-founder and director Marc Hershman.
“Marc Hershman and I go way back, so when we began talking about the possibility of starting up a new broking firm, I quickly started to get excited about the opportunity, and, in the end, the decision to pull the trigger and go for it was an easy one,” Hardiman said.
“There’s a real satisfaction that comes from directly improving the client’s position and helping them succeed in their business. We genuinely want to do things differently – insurance sometimes isn’t the best at keeping up with technology, and clients feel that, too. We want to bridge the gap between old practices and a modern experience so that our clients receive a great broking service and can get back to focusing on their business, knowing they’re well-protected.”