Succeeding in insurance: Why is it important to leave your comfort zone?

Succeeding in insurance: Why is it important to leave your comfort zone? | Insurance Business New Zealand

Succeeding in insurance: Why is it important to leave your comfort zone?

The insurance industry is broad, giving people a myriad of jobs to choose from. Some move from one position to another, while others remain committed to one path. Whether you jump from one role and market to another or remain loyal to one path, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI) senior property underwriter Matthew Short revealed to Insurance Business how leaving your comfort zone help you succeed in the industry.

Short, whose roles revolved around underwriting, fell into insurance like many insurance professionals. He shared that his previous cricket coach, who manages a Vero branch in Palmerston North, invited him to join the insurer's underwriting team as an assistant underwriter. In this role, he mainly worked with the underwriter or business development manager and looked for potential new business and renewal books.

Short eventually moved to the UK to challenge himself further by working within the Lloyd's market, where he immediately faced challenges as a “small fish in a big pond without any London market experience.” However, he managed to get a game of cricket for the Lloyd's cricket team, and the team captain happened to be an underwriter at Ascot Underwriting.

“[The team captain] suggested I join him in the underwriting room at Lloyd's for a month to learn the market dynamics and meet people within the market,” he said.

Through this experience, he met Pioneer Underwriters and landed an underwriter assistant role within the Marine and Property Fac team, focusing on specialty risks. In this role, he worked within the Pioneer Specialty – primarily focused on terrorism, marine, and international property fac accounts throughout the world, placing risks through the historic Lloyd's of London.

Short shared that he had learned a lot during his stay with the Marine and Property Fac team, such as learning the art of underwriting and insuring a variety of risks, including the world's largest airport and some of Europe's biggest landmarks.

Speaking about the art of underwriting, Short said: “For example – managing your aggregates, capacity – big lines aren't necessarily a sign of strength, understanding modelled outputs, treaties, reinsurance, and primary markets. I spent most of my time soaking up everyone's knowledge and learning the craft so I could return to New Zealand having gained more knowledge.”

During his time in London, Short had been keeping an eye on the insurance market to remain updated in new trends and emerging risks. He eventually became interested in Ando New Zealand, especially when he and his wife decided to move back to the country. Despite the possible challenges in reintroducing himself to the New Zealand market again after more than a year of focusing on the UK market, he still reached out to Ando and landed the role of senior business development manager.

“Thankfully, they were recruiting, and I landed a job. They helped me reintroduce myself to the New Zealand market. Ando is full of great people with a good culture,” Short said.

As a senior business development manager at Ando, Short underwrote all lines of business within New Zealand via local broker channels. He specialised in property with $20 million capacity with access to reinsurance markets in New Zealand and overseas and left his comfort zone again by managing a team of commercial underwriters.

Short eventually moved to BHSI as a senior property manager responsible for building and actively managing a portfolio throughout New Zealand. In this role, Short shared that the industry faces many challenges, particularly around “carriers having to focus on underwriter discipline and results rather than investment returns and market share.” However, he and his team see this as an opportunity for Berkshire Hathaway to not shy away but to step into the marketplace.

“A big challenge and opportunity for the industry overall is showing customers that there is certainty and stability in our marketplace. My challenge is changing the mindset of our customers and turning that into opportunities for BHSI. We need to underwrite with a focus on long-term stability every day. It's what our customers want and expect from us,” he added.

Despite the challenges, Short loves his role at BHSI – highlighting his team members' willingness to connect no matter where they are around the globe.

“Being able to collaborate and bounce ideas off some of the smartest minds within our industry is something that makes BHSI really unique. There is an eagerness to learn from one another, find common ground, and build relationships within this organisation. We stand out due to our financial strength. We don't have to buy reinsurance meaning. We don't have the same restraints as our competitors,” he said.

“Due to a high level of local authority and the collaborative approach with global senior claims management, our claims decisions are our own. From the underwriting side, we can be innovative with our coverage in terms of policy duration, price certainty, and most importantly in New Zealand, consistency of capacity. It's a place like no other, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to help build a Berkshire Hathaway business within New Zealand.”

With combined knowledge and experience from both the UK and New Zealand markets, Short is encouraging young insurance professionals to challenge themselves to work in an overseas market.

He said: “My tip for any young insurance professional is to always have the willingness and eagerness to challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone.”