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James Andlaw: Technology Makes Us ‘Lean and Smart’


As Probitas becomes the latest syndicate to sign up to Lloyd's Placing Platform (PPL), Senior Underwriter James Andlaw explains how technology will help Probitas to remain ‘Lean and Smart’.

Probitas 1492 is the latest syndicate to sign up to Lloyd’s Placing Platform Limited (PPL), which forms part of the Target Operating Model package of London Market reforms.

The online platform, which went live with Terrorism class of business back in July has recently added Financial Lines to its facility. James Andlaw, Senior Underwriter - Management Liability, Probitas 1492, explains his motives for signing up to this latest initiative from Lloyd’s.

“For almost 300 years the London Market has been placing business in the same way, usually involving time-consuming administration, scanning, signing, stamping and bundles of paperwork - a far cry from the norm of next generation brokers and underwriters who have never lived in a world without internet and have been immersed, from birth, in an unprecedented level of technology."

Andlaw, who previously held senior underwriting positions at QBE and Zurich, found the flexibility of a start-up syndicate, in Probitas 1492, enabled a multitude of opportunities for disruption and innovation.

"I joined Probitas because technology is a key component of our proposition; I believe the market needs to adapt and evolve. We are developing our own in-house online platform, which is really making headway, so when I heard Financial Lines was being added to the PPL initiative, it was imperative that we were at the forefront of driving the Insurtech agenda. Our team has signed up to the facility offering Management Liability, Professional Indemnity and Financial Institutions insurance and we are fully behind this progressive Lloyd’s initiative.”

PPL allows brokers and underwriters to see policy details, quotes, and financial transactions in a single online platform, thereby reducing administration and associated costs. So why has the market been reluctant to sign up to similar schemes in the past?

“The market is afraid of change; it doesn’t want to be another Go Compare or Direct Line. Commercial insurance relies heavily on trust, and you can’t easily build trust through a computer; you need to speak to people and build a rapport. That’s why it’s imperative to be strategic in selecting the risks appropriate for online transactions – perhaps the simpler accounts - and continuing to deal with the more complex accounts face-to-face.

There is also reluctance from a practical point – for larger companies with hundreds, or even thousands, of employees it requires meticulous planning to move business onto a new platform and integrate it with their own legacy systems. As a start-up syndicate, Probitas is in the perfect position to adopt new technologies; we have no legacy burden and actively seek out innovative ways to stay ahead of the game."

So how does Andlaw create a balance between keeping pace with the new generation of insurance professionals and maintaining mature relationships?

"We are a modern syndicate; we move with the times. This doesn’t mean that relationships with our brokers are compromised; if anything they are enhanced by delivering significant process and cost efficiencies. Most of our key trading partners are also signed up to the PPL platform and with them and our other partners, we will continue to develop and nurture new and existing relationships. One of our strongest attributes is our people, so we wouldn’t want them eclipsed by a computer screen.

PPL will offer standardised forms of contracts, meaning a seamless, consistent service across the market, with greater security and little room for human error. It will promote responsiveness, broker turnaround and document production. Furthermore, going paperless is part of our duty as an industry to lower our carbon footprint."

Andlaw sees the future of the London Market as being a hybrid of tradition and technology.

“The market will still be relationship-driven - for commercial insurance this is essential - but large portfolios of less complex accounts will move online. With reduced paperwork, broking houses and insurance companies will have more time to train juniors in technical skills – thereby continuously improving their service to clients.

By streamlining process and incorporating technology to eliminate paper from the process, operating cost can be reduced by as much as 25% . We will use these savings to employ more high-profile decision-makers and analysts; Probitas will continue to be a lean, smart syndicate”.