Q. You were a world-ranked tennis player, competing in the ITF World Tennis Juniors tour until a shoulder injury cut short your career. What did you learn from this experience and how has it prepared you for a career in insurance finance & accounting?
A.Like anyone in sport, I was naturally competitive, and I’ve used this to ensure I and my team perform to the best of our ability and that Asta is consistently in the top quartile of managing agencies at Lloyd’s when it comes to financial reporting.
Being a largely individual sport, tennis has given me the ability to solve problems on my own and to react quickly and positively to unexpected situations. Tennis also taught me that I don’t know all the answers and just as I would with my coach, I am always looking to improve by asking for advice and feedback.
Q. Managing the finances of multiple syndicates and MGAs sounds complex. Is it?
A. Yes! We currently manage the finances of 13 different entities writing over 40 classes of business. However, we are lucky to have AMIS, Asta’s own data warehouse that has multiple inputs but one standard output, which is key to spending more of our time analysing rather than processing data. In dealing with so many different scenarios you learn a lot and you have to be super-organised. (Another thing tennis taught me – forgetting your passport or being late when travelling to international tennis venues was not an option!).
Q.The role of finance is becoming far more strategic, using data and analytics to inform critical business decisions. How does this influence your approach to syndicate finance and Asta clients in particular?
A. Along with our Underwriting oversight and Actuarial teams we are part of a Performance Oversight working group which enables these teams to work together and – crucially – bring together the numbers into one common set that allows us to see precisely what’s going on across the business. Accuracy and consistency are also important to ensure we know what’s going on inside each client and therefore help reliably inform their decision-making.
Q. Asta manages a diverse range of businesses. What are the key differences between managing the finances of a Lloyd’s syndicate, an SIAB – or an MGA with non-Lloyd’s capacity?
A.The main difference between an MGA and a syndicate is the level of reporting and the timetables for doing so. Governance of the process is no less onerous for an MGA and they still need to produce report & accounts for example, just like any other business. However, the volume of reporting returns needed is lower and timeframes are less pressing for MGAs, particularly those underwriting with non-Lloyd’s capacity. In addition, capacity and capital providers still require information on MGA businesses. We currently have an MGA client based in Dubai and that presents additional reporting requirements that we’ve had to adapt to.
SIAB is obviously new and 2020 will be a year of testing the model to see what works best for new entrants in the long-term. We anticipate that reporting will be less frequent and I see our internal systems and processes simply adapting to any changes we need to make.
Q. How do you motivate yourself and your team?
A. It’s all about work/life balance, otherwise you just roll from one deadline to the next! At a personal level I always have holidays planned so that I make the best use of my time away from the office and always have something to look forward to.
Thankfully my team is very self-motivated. When tight deadlines mean late nights in the office it’s the simple things that keep us all going – ordering in pizza and arranging taxis home for everyone make a big difference. And of course, once the deadlines are over, we let our hair down. Doing a treasure hunt is a firm favourite with the team!
Q. The ITF Tour sparked a passion for travelling. Of the countries you have visited which one has surprised you the most and why?
A.I’ve been to every continent apart from Antarctica and over 30 countries, so that’s a tough question. A lot of people talk about their breath being taken away after seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time – and that’s true. And nothing prepares you for the sensory overload that India gives travellers. The range of smells in particular – the food, spices and other not so pleasant smells from city streets and alleyways – to the Ganges river and countryside beyond – all create a heady mixture of smells unlike anything else I’ve experienced. I loved it!
Q. What would you most like to tell your thirteen-year old self?
A. You will get taller! And it will all be OK. At 13 tennis was all-consuming and it was difficult to imagine doing anything else, never mind building a career outside the sport I loved. Looking back though, I have no regrets and I learnt so much. I was fortunate to meet my hero Stefan Edberg on the tour who was everything I aspired to be. Calm, professional and – I hope – smart!