Ian Bowler shares his optimistic view on successfully and profitability growing Sompo International’s PL portfolio despite the challenges created by difficult macro-economic conditions brought on by the combination of direct and indirect exposures related to COVID-19 and Brexit.
What’s your back story?
I attended Newport Grammar School up to sixth form and then read for a BSc in Estate Management at Portsmouth Polytechnic (now the University of Portsmouth). Just as I graduated, however, the property crash of the late 1980s, led to a career change into insurance and professional indemnity.
After three years at Aegon Insurance as graduate trainee underwriter, I joined QBE, which at the time comprised of only 38 staff in London. I worked there for 15 years as a Senior PI underwriter before moving to Axis in 2010 where I set up and built out a London market PI platform, moving to Sompo International three years later in 2014 to do the same. I now head up a team of six people, forming an integral part of a sizeable London Market Financial Lines Portfolio.
When I’m not in the market I’m a keen sportsman – I have played cricket competitively for Sawbridgeworth in the Saracens Herts league for many years, and despite my surname I am a top order batsman! My best League score is 125 not out v Watford Town in 1995. I still enjoy the odd game of cricket and golf.
Tell us about your market
PI is long tail and closely linked to the vagaries and whims of the economy.
There is no doubt the combination of direct and indirect exposures related to COVID-19 and Brexit will create difficult macro-economic conditions for all the professions we work with – legal, accounting, insurance broking, real estate and construction – which could precipitate claims.
We are optimistic, however, that we will continue to successfully and profitably grow the PI portfolio here at Sompo International. We take a pragmatic view on risk and exposure based on years of experience, knowledge of the wider economy and more specifically, each individual profession in collaboration with a wide broker network established over my career in PI.
What’s your USP?
We are a Primary and Lead market in all professions, with over 70 years’ experience across the team providing ‘sleep easy’ cover and a practical, reasoned, rational approach to underwriting and claims handling.
We are flexible and credible with an appetite that extends from the one-man band sole practitioner right up to a FTSE 100 corporate services firm or Magic Circle law firm. We relish the opportunity to put our significant A+ rated capacity to work with like-minded professional services businesses, with the willingness and confidence to meet with the client (often the Chief Executive or Financial Director) establishing long-lasting and meaningful business relationships.
Our book is stable, diversified, balanced and well established now. We have to continue with the cricket theme – ‘runs on the board’ – as we near a century in Gross Written Premium ($100m!)
We understand our clients and their needs as they operate within the vagaries of the wider economy. If there is a storm coming, we are the shelter – providing the financial backing to pay legitimate claims via a first-class in-house PI claims offering.