Going for broker

Going for broker

While at Countrywide we’re marking our 25th anniversary this year, a familiar face to you has reached an even bigger landmark – Richard Ward, who manages our specialist Broker team, has been underwriting legal indemnity risks for 30 years!

Back in 1989, aged 17, Richard started at Aviva (then Norwich Union) as a fresh-faced school-leaver. Reporting on his first day, he was told he would be working in the mysteriously named Contingency & Guarantee department, which turned out to be legal indemnities. It was the first time he’d ever heard of them, but 30 years later, and having underwritten tens of thousands of risks, he has no plans to stop any time soon.

Ringing the changes

Richard built up his experience underwriting a wide range of legal indemnity risks, including residential, commercial, overseas, and lending before joining Countrywide in 1999 as an underwriter and then manager to the ‘specialist risks’ team. He left to head up the legal indemnity account for Aviva in late 2010, but didn’t stay away for long, returning to Countrywide just three years later.

Over the past three decades he has seen plenty of changes in the workplace – carbon paper, manually generating policy numbers in a book, paper files and microfiche have all now been replaced by email and online systems. And it’s not just the procedures that have changed. Some now-extinct customs from the 80s and 90s workplace included a canteen providing staff with a free lunch, and the archaic-sounding practice of people smoking at their desk!

New markets

In terms of legal indemnities, the overall volume of business has increased, along with the number of competitors and the frequency of claims. But one of the biggest changes that Richard has witnessed has been brokers entering the market.

“For the first 20 years or so of my career, business came to us direct from solicitors. 2000 was the first year that we started to see enquiries from general insurance brokers, and in 2013 the broker market had grown to such an extent that Countrywide set up its own dedicated broker indemnity team.  Today brokers play an important role in introducing some of the larger and more commercial risks that we may not see from our direct markets, for example rights to light cases, and enquiries from large corporate clients who place all of their insurances via a broker.”

While systems and procedures have naturally moved on since he first started out, some things haven’t changed. “30 years after writing my first enquiry, it’s still satisfying to put a case on risk” Richard says. “I never thought on that first day that I’d still be underwriting legal indemnities 30 years later. I can’t believe there’s anyone who has been doing it for longer.”

If you know someone who has been in legal indemnities longer than Richard, let us know, and we’ll feature them in the next issue of LinkUp.