Chloe Ferguson, VP, Regional Underwriting Manager, Sompo GRS
What is your backstory? Tell us about your path to Sompo International.
The first time insurance really popped onto my radar in a meaningful way, I was working with big climate data sets in a lab at Princeton University where we focused on predicting potential human responses to environmental change. I initially worked with the State Department in Asia after graduating college but stayed interested in the field. When AIG reached out to me about a role in commercial property in New York I made the jump into insurance. About five years ago, I made the jump again to Sompo Global Risk Solutions (GRS) right after Michael Chang first founded the unit.
What is something about your role / business unit that people may not know?
In my current role, I lead the Middle Market practice in the Western states for Sompo Global Risk Solutions. Our target Middle Market client sits at a very interesting intersection in the marketplace, ranging from what would be handled in a national account practice at many of our competitors, all the way down to what falls into our Small Business team. That, in turn, means we may have everything from a local agency’s largest keystone client to a book of active flow from a top three big brokerage player. It’s a great way to get a flavor for all the different types, styles, regional variations and priorities of different types of agencies. They all have different needs and ask different questions. Quoting one line of Middle Market business across a big geography is a challenge, but quoting five lines of business across a big geography is truly an education!
What do you think makes Sompo International unique?
Sompo International combines the resources and reach of a very large, global company with the heart of a startup. There is a real will to build off knowledge and experience in the industry to rethink how we can do business, both in terms of product or message and in terms of how the industry looks and feels—more diverse, more open, more creative. I often tell potential new hires that the folks who do well in vast, anonymous organizations won’t do well here, but for candidates who are empowered to build from the ground up it’s an opportunity they won’t find anywhere else in the industry.
Can you shed light on a current project / initiative you / your business unit is working on?
We’ve just rolled out our Technology and Life Sciences verticals here in Sompo Global Risk Solutions (GRS), which are really interesting expansions into two cutting-edge areas of the economy and overlap heavily with the Middle Market segment. These are ideal clients for Sompo GRS who crave the unique, white glove approach, and it is a place where brokers are looking for a true partner to solve challenges alongside of them. If you can help brokers figure out how to cover and price a particular risk, your book grows with that business.
What is a trend you feel is impacting the industry at the moment?
I think we’re in something of a reckoning right now on several fronts with the limits of the heritage data sets we’ve been using and how we might better get at what we’re trying to measure. For example, the casualty side is feeling the impact of COVID-19. We can see the benefits in terms of near-term frequency (fewer people doing things means fewer claims on several casualty lines) but the question remains what happens in the long-term with litigation, case law, and even overall population health. In both cases, we are trying to take a leap outside the bounds of what we’ve built our models to tell us and what we can assign a credible number to. That, to my mind, is where the underwriting skillset shines through and the best talent wins.
Any advice to your younger self?
Take every chance to be in the deep end of the pool so you can learn how to swim! I luckily (or unluckily, depending on your view) had the chance to work on a wide array of occupancies and client types early on in my career and effectively sucked up information voraciously as a result. You never know when a piece of exposure know-how might come back around and learning how to underwrite lines of business or occupancies that aren’t your primary focus now may pay dividends later.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’m a fairly active women’s flyweight boxer here in New York City. In fact, I was lucky enough to have a packed Sompo International section at a USA Boxing charity fight a few years ago, which right now manifests as a lot of conditioning in Central Park. This rather neatly dovetails with my pretty big interest in cooking. I often joke that weekends are half justifying a good meal and the other half figuring out how to cook it.
Last words – anything else you’d like us to know?
I’d say, especially to my younger colleagues, you can’t plan for everything in your career, but you can plan your career, something that is almost more important in an institution growing as quickly as Sompo International. Make time for it, ask for good advice, then ask for some more!