We caught up with Gary to find out about his role in claims, career, and professional highlights
What is your current job title and how would you describe your role?
I am Assistant Claims Manager for Marine third-party liability claims. This role places me as the head of British Marine claims, and I also run the Marine Liabilities Syndicate 1036 Claims Portfolio. I manage a team of seven, so I’m responsible for the management, development, growth, and empowerment of the team – and I handle a small portfolio of larger loss claims myself.
We look after a claims portfolio of around 3000 files and it’s a very reactive sector – we must respond instantly to events that happen at sea and in ports. We give 24/7, 365 day a year emergency response for the broker or assured when they have a potential issue. So, whether that be an injury or an illness at sea, a collision, or any problem in port, with cargo or pollution or anything else – we’re there straight away to lend support.
Rather than waiting for a claim to happen, we are proactive. We welcome calls to let us know there is a potential issue, and we will help minimize impact – we’ll send a local surveyor, a local expert or a local lawyer that can help. We need to be proactive to understand our customers’ business and to ensure they don’t experience extended delays within ports. We aim to minimize exposure to risk, not only for claims, but to protect to their business and their commercial aspects.
How did you start out in marine insurance and when did you first learn about QBE?
I started in marine insurance when I was 18; I was trying to decide whether to go to university to study law when I was offered some temporary work with Steamship Mutual, one of the international group clubs. After a few weeks they offered me a job and it all went from there.
I’ve stayed interested in marine insurance because no two claims are alike. It may sound like a cliché – and you may think that vessels call at regular ports around the world and carry regular cargoes – but 30 years on I’m still learning new things. Even with claim types I may have seen before, perhaps the rules and regulations have changed in the last year, or we have a conflict like we’ve got now in Russia and Ukraine and that completely flips the balance. Although we work in an industry where the cargoes and vessels and ports remain constant, the claims aspect changes a lot. The variety of claims we cover keeps this an interesting and diverse career.
How has British Marine/QBE helped in your career development?
Not only has British Marine helped me, but the company has set me up to help myself. One of the things British Marine and QBE do is to encourage you to decide on your own career path and how you want to advance along it – the culture is such that higher levels of management are focused on helping you achieve your vision.
I came in as a Claims Adjuster and was promoted after about a year before the chance arose to cover the syndicate side of the business, away from P&I. I was keen to show that I could work across other lines of business rather than just P&I and the opportunities to demonstrate my range have all contributed to the experience I bring to being a manager today.
What gets you out of bed in the morning and into work?
A mortgage and two kids!
But really, it’s the support provided to our customers that drives our operations. Our team offer tailored support for each customer as we understand that everybody’s business model is different. We may work with customers that are doing similar sort of transits, but they have different needs and requirements, and we assist each of them accordingly. We look at the ways we can best protect them and minimize their losses, not just from an insurance perspective, but also from a commercial perspective – and this individual approach is a great motivator for me. Our positive customer feedback also indicates that this approach is highly valued by the assured.
What has been your favourite project at QBE – what are you most proud of?
Another highlight was my involvement in speeding up the payment process for British Marine. Since Brexit, we’ve had to change a number of company stamps for UK/Europe which had a knock on effect on payments from both customers and third-party service providers. We streamlined the payment process, removing unnecessary steps, and vastly improving the system from pre-Brexit standards. The feedback has been positive, and all parties can see the improvement.
What would you like to achieve in your next 5 years?
I’d like to see our Internal Staff development programme grow. We’re working with QBE and British Marine to bring some of our core adjusters into the complex environment. This would help retain staff, grow staff, and develop staff – and this gives a level of security to our customers, so they have the same claims handler, the same contact throughout. This produces a familiarity where customers are confident knowing that that the claim channels dealing with their business, understand their business and have been in contact with them regularly.
I would like QBE and British Marine to stay at the forefront from the customers’ perspective, so they understand that we’re not just here to deal with problems when they arise but can also help them prevent losses. The aim is for British Marine to maintain the momentum we have in getting out in front of the customer, so they get to meet the claims team claims handlers, build positive relationships, and think of British Marine first. Building a good foundation of early communication and loss prevention is something I would like to develop even more.
If you could do another job in another industry for just one day, what would it be?
Lead singer in Coldplay
What’s your favourite activity or hobby outside work?
Golf or fishing – outdoor activities!
What is your favourite book?
Anything by Harlan Coben
What’s an interesting fact about you that people may not know?
I’ve got eight tattoos – which people may not realise when I’m in a suit and tie for work!
What advice would you give to a school leaver?
Be curious. You’ve probably heard about insurance, but you’ve probably only heard about it from your parents, and maybe just in reference to the car or house. So, be curious, ask questions, find out if there’s more out there and what that involves – especially if you want to go to college and build a career.
Delve into subjects and areas that you haven’t considered before, or that you’re not sure about – you’ll probably find there’s a whole world of opportunity available that was out of sight before.