Meet the team: Robbie MacDonald, Head of Property D&F

The Property team at IQUW has undergone several changes in the past couple of years since acquiring Agora. Now the transformation is complete. The Direct & Facultative (D&F) team has grown to eight and the division has a balanced and profitable global portfolio. Here, Robbie tells us about his insurance journey, his thoughts on the changes in the market and his team at IQUW.

How did you first arrive in the insurance industry?

Well, after the career as an Abercrombie model failed to take off I figured I needed to get a proper job! I graduated in journalism from Kingston University, but after doing some work experience in a publishing house, I realised that journalism wasn’t the career for me. So I decided to look for jobs in the financial markets. I never intended to go into insurance, but a friend of my mother’s worked at Marsh, and got me – as is often the case in this world – an interview and the rest is history.

I cut my teeth at Marsh as a trainee international property broker, where I got excellent grounding and training. But I was looking at underwriting, and I fancied my hand at it. Paul Dreblow (now of Everest Insurance) was looking for an assistant underwriter at Tokio Marine Global. I phoned him up, came in for a chat and it snowballed from there. We later migrated into the Tokio Marine Kiln setup.

Three years later, in 2012, a position became available at HCC. I joined the property open market team, where I spent nine very happy years underwriting. It was a sizeable portfolio when I left. The chance to work in IQUW’s property team came up and as I had never worked at a start-up, the possibilities really appealed to me.

What has changed in the industry since you joined in 2006?

There undoubtedly has been a lot of change since I started in the industry. In fact, we have probably witnessed more change in the last twenty years than that of the previous 100, driven by advancements in IT and computer science.

The industry is definitely more professional, possible not from an attire perspective – we have become a lot more casual in this respect. I’m not innocent in this by the way, but this was largely due to not yet having replenished my suit collection, that shrank in the wardrobe over the course of the pandemic! Joking aside, I feel there is a much higher expectation on all levels of the insurance market. We put ourselves out there as experienced and qualified professionals in a highly regulated industry and we need to always demonstrate this.

Technology has played a major role in changing the shape of the industry. When I first started, the Blackberry was still pretty new and probably considered cutting edge technology at the time. Now further advancements in technology mean that people can work very efficiently from almost anywhere in the world – this was unthinkable not that long ago. Whilst these developments have been hugely beneficial, in the main, I also think there are drawbacks. People are contactable and sometimes expected to be contactable, at all times – an airplane flight was the last bastion of escapism but now with inflight Wi-Fi you’re contactable at 35,000 feet! It’s critical to try to maintain a healthy balance.

Can you tell us more about IQUW’s Property D&F book?

We established the portfolio at the tail end of 2021. IQUW acquired Agora Syndicate in November of the same year, and the portfolio that came with the syndicate meant we had a good foundation going into 2022. Looking back - and given the market that we were able to trade in - it was hugely beneficial. It did bring with it some challenges, but we refocused in 2022 and spent time re-underwriting the portfolio and reorganising the book. The team is solid and healthy, and the portfolio is in a really good place now.

The rough split at the moment is around 85% North America, 15% International. We anticipate modest growth in 2024, focused mainly on our international business, and we've identified pockets where we think we can lean into in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, and Mexico.

What makes IQUW different to other insurers?

What really sets IQUW apart is our talented team and our commitment to excellence. Whilst we’ve grown considerably since our formation in 2021, we remain nimble and our structure enables us to pivot effortlessly in order to respond to changing market dynamics. We actively encourage cross party involvement and collaboration in all manner of projects, across the business, which is invaluable, particularly for some of our younger members of the team.

What's particularly exciting is the diversity and youthfulness of our talent pool, and we put a lot of effort into identifying future talent. Right across the business, all staff are empowered, enabling them to execute on their respective roles and responsibilities to the best of their ability. There’s a real buy-in from everyone involved to make IQUW a success, and the enthusiasm among our team members is palpable.

This enthusiasm from our team directly translates into a heightened focus on serving our clients' needs. With increases in staffing and strategic initiatives like broker engagement approaches, we're poised to deliver even better service to our clients. Additionally, in the property sector, we've introduced initiatives to streamline processes, such as providing timely updates on submission status and investing in new technology like our upcoming Property Pricing Platform. This platform, spearheaded by John Brown, will provide us with greater insights into our portfolio and enhance our overall efficiency and effectiveness in serving clients.

What does 2024 have in store for the Property market?

In 2024, several trends are shaping the property market landscape, and we're closely monitoring their impact on our operations. One significant trend is the increasing demand for streamlined placement strategies. Clients are seeking more efficient and cost-effective solutions, driving a shift towards simplified insurance arrangements and consolidated placements.

Additionally, we're observing a growing emphasis on data-driven insights and analytics. With advancements in technology and modelling capabilities, clients are looking to leverage data to gain a deeper understanding of their risk exposures and inform strategic decision-making processes.

What made you join IQUW?

A combination of factors if I’m honest. Originally, I was drawn to IQUW by the people. If you look at the individuals within our organisation, it's a who's who of talented and respected market practitioners. There was also the ability of being able to bring together a team of highly talented individuals to form the property team, which I found incredibly exciting. The second thing is with a start-up, there was an opportunity for me to come in and do something new - to really put your own stamp on and completely unencumbered by any form of legacy.

Lastly, I could really see that IQUW were looking to do things differently. I mentioned earlier about how technology has been the catalyst for considerable change throughout the industry over the last twenty years; IQUW’s desire to embrace tech, develop proprietary pricing and analytic tools, combine this with best in class talent and generally innovate, made the proposal impossible to pass up. It's been a real opportunity for me to get outside of my comfort zone. I feel that during the last two and a half years, from a development and career progression perspective, I could not have asked for anymore.