An effective leader must become a student in every facet of their business, says Chubb’s regional president for Asia Pacific Paul McNamee.
For Paul McNamee, Chubb Senior Vice President and Regional President for Asia Pacific, building a large, successful insurance company is not a sprint. He says that is a tried strategy which usually ‘ends in disappointment’.
Instead, he says, it’s more effective to have a sound, strategic plan that is aligned to customers’ needs and backed by a sense of discipline in exposure management, pricing of risk, reserve management, claims leadership, technology and employee welfare.
While McNamee says he did not start his career with the desire to be a leader, he always had a sense that the best way he could contribute to the success of Chubb, and bring value to its customers and stakeholders, would be to lead the business in the APAC region.
‘As a leader you will always have your specialties; however, you must become a student in every facet of your business,’ he says.
‘For example, if you’re investing in technology, you must understand it deeply, not superficially. Similarly, if you are selling a new product, you need to be absolutely certain about the impact of the new exposure to the balance sheet, solvency and liquidity.
‘Innovative new small products can often lead to the most extreme of risks. Lessons have been learned and are continuing to be learned today in our region from failures of leaders to properly evaluate such decisions holistically.’
Born in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, McNamee came to Australia with his parents in 1977, when he was two years old. Like most of the friends he grew up with in the eighties, local sport played a big part in his early life.
He entered the insurance industry in 1995, starting his career at CIGNA Corporation’s international operations in Australia and joining ACE (now Chubb) the same year, underwriting the commercial property business in Australia and later Asia, Europe and the United States. McNamee returned to the Asia-Pacific region in 2013, where he held a variety of general management positions throughout the company.
He says he’s been very fortunate to have had several strong mentors in his career at Chubb.
‘In fact, my very first mentor, who hired me as an underwriting assistant 26 years ago, still works with us today — and, yes, I still seek advice from time to time when enquiring about what’s happening on the front end of our business.’
McNamee loves the fact that at Chubb, the majority of senior leadership has been together for a long period of time, navigating the company through many opportunities and challenges over the past few decades.
‘As a team, we talk regularly, and during the most challenging times it is literally every day,’ he says. ‘So in that sense, I feel we all act as mentors for each other — it’s very comforting.’
Personally, McNamee is most proud of ‘helping build this great company’ into what it is today at all levels of the organization, both in Asia Pacific and around the world.
He says it’s ‘well known’ that Chubb is a company of builders.
‘We consider our world broadly and study the movement and flow of risks such as climate change and cybercrime,’ he says.
‘Too often we are asked about cyber and climate-related risks. These risks are no longer emerging. Frankly, if you aren’t managing these exposures effectively today, the insurance business is not where you want to be. Such risks are clear and present, and facing us across all areas of the business, on both sides of the balance sheet.’
McNamee points to innovative approaches at Chubb that include considering the risks deeply, searching for insights into opportunities and thoroughly understanding the landscape before establishing a plan.
‘At times, when we see underserved risks or opportunities to bring our experience and expertise, we embrace that challenge and move resources effectively to meet the need presented,’ he says.
‘Our vision in Asia Pacific is simple — we are committed to growing our business by serving the vast populations with enhanced product, delivered through broad, efficient and effective distribution methods, whether they be digital or analogue in their nature.’
McNamee says customers large and small are talking about the impact of the COVID pandemic as it relates to rising political tensions and trade sanctions, supply chain exposure and, of course, business interruption.
‘Pandemic risk cannot be solved by the industry alone as our balance sheet is finite and the risk is simply not bound by geography and time,’ he says.
‘However, I believe there is an opportunity in many countries of the region, including Australia, for federal and state governments to form partnerships with the insurance industry.
‘A partnership will help provide greater coverage, greater certainty and a stronger claims mechanism for customers to endure future pandemics rather than resort to hastily employed, expansionary fiscal solutions. These, while somewhat effective, have undoubtedly led to a misallocation of resources in certain segments of the economy.’
McNamee says Chubb Asia Pacific will continue its mission as an underwriting company of reaching more customers with more distribution channels.
‘On the consumer side, we have built a strong digital business, embedding solutions — such as Chubb Studio “insurance in a box” — within our many partners’ applications. These can be accessed whether customers are enjoying a GrabTaxi ride in Kuala Lumpur, banking with DBS in Singapore or flying with Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong.
‘Our technology solutions are helping these partners, and many more, to bring peace of mind to their customers while enjoying a seamless digital experience. This will continue to expand alongside our many direct response consumer businesses across Asia and our many intermediated businesses, such as our Private Risk Services [Masterpiece] business in Australia and New Zealand.’
On the commercial side, McNamee says Chubb continues to see a ‘flight to quality’ in its Major Account business, an area in which the company has a deep and rich experience across the region, with many customers who have been with Chubb for decades.
‘We never take our leadership position in this segment for granted,’ he says. ‘In fact, we cherish it, and, despite the many accolades we receive, we are continually sourcing feedback from our clients and brokers as to how we can improve our service levels and offerings to them.
‘In addition to this, it’s no secret that we have been building out our capabilities in small commercial, especially in Australia.
‘This is where we have invested heavily in our technology solution to partner with brokers across the country in delivering our products and claims reputation to customers of all sizes. We have high expectations for this business and will continue to invest where we feel we can add value to our brokers and customers.
This article was first published in the ANZIIF (The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance) Journal, vol 44, issue 4 in December 2021
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