How COVID has "made us all closer" | Insurance Business UK
The energy that it takes to evolve a successful business proposition is underpinned by two key factors - a team ready and willing to navigate any upheaval, and a business structure primed for the long haul. Looking back on the last 18 months, Claire McDonald (pictured), who is currently HDI Global’s MD for UK and Ireland but will be starting a new role as chief underwriting officer for the property, engineering, and marine portfolios, as well as HDI RISK Consulting (from 01 January 2022), paid tribute to the team who “didn’t miss a beat” when the lockdowns hit and the call for remote working emerged.
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The business quickly found its footing, she noted, moving to establish a variety of procedures to make the home working experience as pleasant as possible for everybody involved. If anything, McDonald said, the last 18 months have really brought the separate teams that make up the UK & Ireland business together, and virtual meetings have actually strengthened the relationship between the London office and its regional counterparts.
“COVID has caused so much destruction and damage to people’s families but in terms of our working environment, it has made us all closer, rather than pulling us apart,” she said. “And that’s at every level [of HDI Global]. We didn’t used to do global town halls and now we do, and everybody joins those from all over the world. So, I think we need to keep the good things going forward. For my local town halls, people have voted they don’t want to have them in-person anymore, they will continue to be virtual because it’s actually a lot easier to ask a presenter questions that way, there’s an approachability around it.”
While other businesses have understandably tapped the brake during the tumult of the COVID crisis, McDonald and her team have moved the business forward. It recently launched its inherent defects insurance proposition, as well as establishing a marine cargo business line, and has maintained its focus on forming and leveraging strong industry relationships.
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For the rest of the year, the focus will be on pushing through with marine, and also with the ongoing reshaping of HDI’s Irish presence. Traditionally, she said, HDI has been a property-casualty player in Ireland, so now it’s about bringing other lines of business such as engineering, motor and marine into the Irish market in a more meaningful way – an ambition that has already made good headway.
It has been a busy year for the UK & Ireland team who, in addition to the changes outlined above, were delighted to receive approval from the PRA at the end of September, which has seen the business exit the temporary permissions regime. For McDonald, however, there’s no reason to slow down the trajectory HDI is on, buoyed by its great security and world-class treaty reinsurance facilities.
Looking forward, she noted that she sees no reason why the business can’t grow further, aided by its stable, long-term client base and its reputation among brokers for dealing with very technical propositions.
“We’re known by the brokers for tending to do more on the heavy end than the vanilla end,” she said. “But there’s no reason why we can’t do some vanilla as well along the way and that we can’t be a little bit more ambitious about what we’re doing. Because sometimes what you need is just a little bit more of that self-belief.”