We spend some time with Marie-Claire Bessada, Senior Casualty Underwriter, talking about where she sees opportunities for growth in the casualty sector, the cohesiveness that underpins the Arch team, and how collaboration is key to the success of the London Market.
What specific areas of the Casualty market are you focused on?
The Arch casualty team operates across a broad range of sectors on an international basis. That means I could be working on a mining risk in Latin America one day, and the next a construction project in Australia. I work across multiple lines, but in terms of specific areas, from a territorial perspective I’d say Canada – because I worked in the Canadian insurance sector for 10 years – and from a risk perspective, construction, mining and manufacturing are probably my specialist areas.
Are there any areas where you are looking to grow your book of business?
The renewable energy space is certainly an area many companies are currently focused on. Whilst it might be relatively new for some underwriters, it’s a marketplace I’ve had experience of for quite a few years.
More generally, I’d say we’re looking to strengthen our position in those markets where we feel our expertise really stands out, and where we can deliver meaningful solutions to brokers and their clients. It’s about building on what we have already established, but also being able to spot those new opportunities when they arise.
The Arch team has a reputation for always trying to come up with a solution, even for the most challenging risks. Is that fair?
I believe our brokers recognise that we are a very cohesive team. There’s such a depth of expertise here and a real sense of everyone pulling together which is clear for brokers to see.
What that means in practice is that when, for example, I’m looking at a particularly challenging or unusual risk, I’ll reach out to my colleagues and we’ll come together to develop the most effective solutions. That team mentality also creates a level of consistency across the division in how we do business which I think our brokers really appreciate.
We want to make sure we’re always looking at ways to bring more to the broker relationship, whether that’s in the level of service we provide, the solutions we offer or the way we transact business. Being that first port of call for our brokers is key to our success and our ability to grow.
What do you see as the biggest risks facing your clients in the next few years?
There’s no doubt ESG is now a top priority for clients against a backdrop of climate change and rising social inflation. At this stage in the evolution of ESG strategies there are no hard and fast rules, so it’s a case of trying to set the parameters of what would be considered ‘best-in-class’ or top quartile. At Arch, we look to help our brokers and their clients achieve the ESG standards they have set for their specific organisations.
How important are partnerships and market collaboration in your line of business?
Collaboration is core to how the London Market functions – there are no silos here. We can’t operate effectively without our broker relationships, and complex risks that come to London can’t be written without the involvement of multiple different markets. You can do everything possible to be a lead market, but you need the support of the follow market. London’s built on solid relationships.
What cements those relationships is the level of trust that exists. That trust extends from the client framing the risk to the broker, the broker bringing that risk to market, and the underwriter choosing to write that risk and delivering on the promise to pay in the event of a loss.
“We want to make sure we’re always looking at ways to bring more to the broker relationship, whether that’s in the level of service we provide, the solutions we offer or the way we transact business. Being that first port of call for our brokers is key to our success and our ability to grow.”MARIE-CLAIRE BESSADA, SENIOR CASUALTY UNDERWRITER
What drew you to the insurance industry?
Like a number of people, I actually got into insurance by accident. I’d just finished university in Canada and my friend’s sister who worked for an insurer mentioned they had a summer student position – who knew that it would turn into a 20-plus-year industry career!
That summer internship really helped fire my interest in the insurance market, and after 10 years in Canada, I was looking for my next challenge – and I thought there was no greater challenge than heading to the epicentre of the global insurance market, London.
How did you find adapting to the uniqueness of the London Market?
There’s no doubt it was challenging. I arrived with 10 years of underwriting experience and my various market qualifications, but when I entered the London Market it as a real eye-opener. The ‘language’ was the same, but the way that the market operated took some getting used to. It was a challenge, but that was the whole point – that’s why I came to London 12 years ago and I can still say that every day is a school day!
Was there a point at which you felt you had truly become a part of the London Market?
Yes – it was when a broker came to me with a risk and told me another very experienced underwriter who I had a lot of respect for had suggested they come to me with the submission, and they would be willing to follow. That was an important moment, because I felt that I had proved my underwriting abilities to the market.
What three words would you use to describe the Arch Casualty team?
Talented, proactive, and enthusiastic.
What would your dream job outside of insurance be?
If I wasn’t in insurance, I’ve often dreamed of moving to the south of France and setting up a little café or restaurant, serving all fresh, local produce to both locals and travellers alike.