Making lockdown work – views from the market: Christopher Neame

From nimbly navigating the queues in the Room to broking by video, Christopher Neame – Senior Vice President, Downstream Natural Resources team at Willis Towers Watson discusses working life in lockdown.

 “Prior to the lockdown, I was spending three or four hours a day in Lloyd’s talking to underwriters. We are placing complex mining and chemical risks, risks that need the ability to talk through the issues. That face to face interaction may have disappeared but not need to have it” commented Christopher Neame, a property broker with Willis. “We are of course trading through, but the ability to navigate your way round the Room and chat to an underwriter who is free has disappeared, and we have lost something intangible with that” he continued.

“The process of the placement is hugely helped by PPL which allows us to get submissions out much more easily” said Christopher who has been using the platform for a couple of years and who recognises how vital it has become in getting the business done. “The negotiations are where we have had to make more changes” he went on, “making appointments is of course something that we did a lot less before, you could just work your way round the Room, assessing the queues! Now you have to get an appointment and work how long you need to get through the things you want to talk about. Increasingly we are broking by video which does give you some semblance of the face to face contract that is so important”. The view across the market seems to be that the market will not be back before the autumn, so thinking about how to improve the conversations between brokers and underwriters is work in progress.

And it is not just the placing process where Christopher is seeing significant changes but also how they interact with clients. “A huge part of what we do is interacting with the clients – either visiting them or them being in London and meeting the underwriters. That process, helping them to tell their story and explain their risks – hearing it direct, is really important. We can of course do these conversations electronically, but those meetings tend to be more functional and less of a discussion”.

As with everyone we have spoken to in this blog series, Christopher misses the direct interaction with colleagues but not the commute – saving time on travel is definitely welcomed by almost everyone. And the other upside Christopher notes is the absence of paper, “ I have not used a printer for two months” he says, surely a good move for a market famed for its reliance on paper.