Profile: Megan Howe

After carving out a career as a specialist insurance lawyer in law firms in New Zealand and London, Megan Howe returns home as the New Zealand Claims Manager of Berkshire Hathaway Specialist Insurance (BSHI). We sat down with Megan to discuss her impressions of the local market and predictions for the year ahead.

How have you found returning to insurance in the New Zealand market after your time in London?

Really invigorating. I was away for 15 years and had lost touch with the New Zealand insurance market. It was great to come back to a mature market, but which is still open to innovation. I really fell on my feet by coming back at the time that Berkshire Hathaway was setting up in New Zealand. I was given an amazing opportunity to be part of a start-up with an incredibly supportive parent company with significant resources, and be part of the team building the foundations for BHSI in New Zealand designing how we want BHSI to fit into the New Zealand market. Because I’m building the New Zealand claims team, and we don’t use recruiters, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know people in the market and have been impressed with the depth of experience among New Zealand insurance professionals across the industry. I also love the high level of collegiality. New Zealand is too small a place to burn bridges and not act with courtesy or respect towards your peers and colleagues.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The variety and the constant learning. Although my primary role is handling claims and managing the claims team, that’s not the full story. The whole claims team gets involved in the underwriting process – meeting prospective clients, discussing claims scenarios and working with the underwriters on the wording. I also manage the product development process which, as you can imagine given we have only been in business in New Zealand for 3.5 years, is a large and ongoing job. Because BHSI does not buy reinsurance, we are able to be flexible about the cover we provide and will bespoke wordings for customers, so I work with the underwriters on those as well as our “off the shelf” products. Finally, because of my legal background, I also review legal documents and work with our General Counsel who is based in Sydney on New Zealand-specific issues.

New Zealand is too small a place to burn bridges and not act with courtesy or respect towards your peers and colleagues.

What trends are you seeing in the local insurance market?

  • A growing realisation among customers that pricing of some lines of business in recent years is not sustainable and that an increase is required. That’s already happening in property lines and we expect a hardening of the D&O and PI markets are also imminent.
  • A welcome increase in appreciation at board level that insurance and risk transfer is not a complete answer to managing and mitigating risk. For example, cyber risks are “whole business risks” and need to be assessed and plans for mitigation, containment and crisis responses need to be incorporated within a company’s culture. Cyber insurance can play an important role, but it needs to be part of the response, not the whole response.

What will your role and your firm look like in five years’ time?

  • The only difference I see to my role is the size of the claims team I manage. Otherwise, BHSI growing larger and having more customers and claims will not change the way in which we do things, particularly the close collaboration between underwriting and claims.
  • Over the next five years and beyond, BHSI will continue to grow at a controlled and managed pace. I believe it is already seen as a worthy competitor to more longstanding companies and I expect that will continue. We will undoubtedly grow our market share and enter into new lines of business, but not change the fundamental way we do things.

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