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In the past nine years as head of worldwide markets at Lloyd's of London, Julian James has traveled the globe to expand the presence of the world's oldest insurance marketplace. But he has decided it's time for new challenges. At the end of April, Mr. James, 43, will leave Lloyd's to become executive chairman of Lockton International, a division of Kansas City, Mo.-based Lockton Cos. In an interview with Business Insurance Editor Regis Coccia, Mr. James reflected on his time at Lloyd's, improvements that have taken place in the market and lessons learned during his 25-year career in insurance.
Q: What are the most significant changes at Lloyd's during your tenure there?
A. Over time, we've witnessed a transformation in the market. Lloyd's was just emerging from financial crisis in the early '90s. Lloyd's has re-established itself and its reputation globally, and the quality of the market is the highest it's ever been.
Q: What are you proudest of about that period?
A. I'm proudest of the market's re-establishing its position globally. Being a part of that has been a wonderful experience. It's had its challenges along the way--9/11, some very soft underwriting years, events like Hurricane Katrina. Despite these, this market is in the strongest position in recent memory.
Q: What lessons have you learned about doing business in markets around the world?
A. People and cultures are different, and we need to understand and respect people's attitudes and wishes. One size doesn't fit all. Without a relentless focus on your customer, you'll never succeed. Honesty, integrity (and client focus)...it's a very powerful combination. Anybody doing any business should respect those principles.
Q: Why has Lloyd's been so resilient?
A. Its adaptability, coupled with a willingness to change and, in recent years, a willingness to improve. People looked at some of the practices and processes at Lloyd's and realized they could be improved. Lloyd's has improved underwriting standards, it has better modeling tools. Every single aspect of this market has improved over the last 10 years. There's still a lot of work to get done, but it's been a constant upgrading.
Q: Many insurance industry executives admit they entered the business by accident. How did you begin your career?
A. I was at Sedgwick Group for 15 years on the marine and energy side, both in the U.S. and internationally. In many ways, I'm going back to my roots. One of my uncles worked for Minet (Group, now part of Aon Corp.) and I was talking with him about what to do with my life. He said, "Come up and have a look at what I do." It sounded like quite an interesting job. Sedgwick seemed an obvious place to start--that was 25 years ago.
Q: Did you ever expect your career to take you where it has?
A. Absolutely not. Anybody who says they can plan their career is either lying or raving mad. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. If you're not enjoying it, then go do something else.
Q: How do you relax when you're not having to think about work?
A. Family life is important. Having 10-year-old and 8-year-old boys will bring you back to reality. They don't care if you just stepped off a flight from China; they expect the same treatment. Family support, they're great levelers.
Q: What will you miss when you leave Lloyd's?
A. If there's one aspect I really enjoy about coming to work every day, it's the people. I've been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic people. The team I work with at Lloyd's has been through a lot, so I'll probably miss them the most.