NZ insurance industry veteran on building an underwriting career

NZ insurance industry veteran on building an underwriting career | Insurance Business New Zealand

NZ insurance industry veteran on building an underwriting career

The insurance industry’s broad scope provides ample opportunities for insurance professionals to round out their expertise – if they’re open to trying new things. International Underwriting Association (IUA) senior underwriter Hayden Chapman has done just that. Chapman, who boasts decades of industry experience, shared with Insurance Business how he started his underwriting career and developed his underwriting skills. 

Chapman (pictured) started walking on the underwriting path when he was looking for a career in the financial services industry after completing a commerce degree at the University of Auckland. He kickstarted his insurance career by joining QBE’s graduate programme, which involved two years of short stints in the insurer’s major underwriting departments and six months in claims.

“For my last stint, they wanted me to experience the market outside of Auckland, and I was sent for a six-month secondment in the Hamilton office of QBE,” Chapman said.

But six months in Hamilton ended up becoming nearly seven years, with his regional manager offering him a chance to stay as a permanent underwriter in the branch. In this underwriting role, he looked after broker portfolios in Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, and other Central North Island Towns.

Speaking about his experience, Chapman said: “My underwriting role was a market-facing one for the Central North Island region. This role gave me a good grounding in the underwriting process for commercial classes of insurance, plus I particularly enjoyed engaging with brokers across the Central North Island. I do remember doing a lot of driving across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty during those years!”

Chapman eventually moved to Allianz to work as a Waikato business development manager after feeling that he needed a new challenge. Although he served in the role for only nine months due to company restructuring, Chapman developed and enhanced his underwriting, broker relationship management, and portfolio underwriting skills.

The company restructuring found him serving as the property manager for the mid-corporate business, which allowed him to engage with many large corporate brokers across New Zealand.

“I got to be involved in underwriting some large, often well-known, businesses right across NZ. I enjoyed meeting business owners with their broker and got to tour some impressive business operations. I even once got to sit at the One News desk in the TVNZ in the studio during an underwriter’s tour,” Chapman said.

After four years with Allianz, Chapman moved to IUA, which has recently become a part of the DUAL Group. As a senior underwriter, he focuses on profitable underwriting in support of the company’s London-based insurers.

“Most of our property business is placed via our binder arrangements with Lloyd’s. However, we can offer unique solutions on some higher hazard or unique business risks by placing into the London open market,” Chapman said.

“Additionally, we are able to provide co-insurance support to larger corporate programmes. IUA even does business in certain Pacific Island locations, which has its own unique challenges. It has certainly been an exciting and challenging few years.”

Despite his years focusing on underwriting, Chapman admits that the role is challenging, especially when working with a small team.

“As an underwriting agency with 13 staff, it is often hard to be visible in all corners of the NZ market. While we have some very strong relationships with key brokers who come to us for our responsiveness and solutions-focus, there are still some who have not had much experience in dealing with us,” he explained.

“Our challenge is to get new brokers involved in working with us for the first time and hopefully their experience of our responsiveness will keep them coming back to us. Even if we cannot get to physically see all brokers each year, we can still be relational even without being physically present. Using online technology or even just picking up the phone and talking to people directly is so important in doing business.”

Chapman has worked to overcome these challenges by improving his skills and learning from the right people. He advises other underwriters to keep learning and remain curious to succeed in their career path.

“I still learn new things every day. While I did a commerce degree and have the ANZIIF insurance diploma, most of my knowledge has been experienced on the job,” he said.

“Getting to know and learn from the right people is key. I have been very fortunate to have worked alongside some incredible mentors – and still do. Some have since retired, one even passed away recently, but the depth of their knowledge and wisdom is still with me to this very day.

“This is also a challenge to the more experienced in our industry to keep the flow of knowledge flowing down to the next generation. My generation is no longer the newbies, and we need to be thinking of the next generation of young insurance professionals coming through our industry and what we can do to mentor the next generation.”