An interview with Ian Davies – Head of Protection


Ian joined Munich Re in 1999 as a Claims Manager having worked in the life and health market for 15 years as an underwriting and claims technician and manager. He took on a variety of roles within Munich Re including Head of Treaty Operations, Director of Operations and most recently Head of Protection. He is responsible for Protection Business Development, Underwriting, Claims, Group Technical Services, Legal and Treaty Documentation.

Underwriting & Claims News: Tell us more about your role as Head of Protection?

ID: It is a very diverse role for a start as it encompasses a number of functions right from the front office to the back office. We have underwriting and claims, legal, our business developers and group risk. We are also now incorporating our Health unit into the team. Someone recently asked me what does a typical day look like as Head of Protection. Every day is different, I can be approving a €50m life risk one minute to debating how we grow our business to looking at how we maximise the value of our inforce book to what does the Enterprise Act mean for our Protection business. I can honestly say no day is boring.

Underwriting & Claims News: What do you see as the industry’s biggest challenge?

ID: The biggest challenge is something that hasn’t changed - the industry is not growing. There is a protection pie and everyone is fighting for a slice of it but what we are not seeing is that pie growing which is a big challenge. One of the longer term challenges is that the whole distribution landscape is likely to change. I think insurers are going to have to work out how they remain relevant. I believe the traditional distribution channels are going to be tested and potentially new models will emerge. I think ultimately we need to ask the question what will the role of the insurers be? The way people will buy protection will also be different. If I look at my children, how will they buy traditional protection policies? Are they going to buy traditional protection policies? I suspect how they view traditional life insurance for example is very different to how my generation view it. 

Underwriting & Claims News: How are Munich Re being innovative in the market?

ID: Firstly, I won’t use the word innovation. Partly because I think it’s an overused word that the industry has become a little bit obsessed with. What I would say is that we need to start with initiatives working closely with our clients. What are we looking for or what are our clients looking for? Is it proof of operational efficiency, is it improved customer experience, improved customer engagement... probably. We work closely with our clients to develop their business. For example, we are heavily involved in supporting the developments of the electronic transfer of medical records, which we see as important. We see that as potentially opening up different ways for us to look at risk selection which will bring opportunities. We are undertaking research with GP’s, distributors, insurers and consumers. We are trying to understand what their thoughts are and that is something that we will be discussing more openly later on this year. But we also do much more on a granular level, we have an excellent bank of doctors both in Munich Centre of Competence as well as locally and we pride ourselves on working with our key clients, providing them top service in relation to training and in looking at meaningful product enhancements. I would say that the quality of our training certainly ranks as being market leading.

Underwriting & Claims News: What does the future protection market look like?

ID: I would like to say that there will be growth but unfortunately I suspect there won’t be. I think again you could ask my children that question and they would come up with a very different answer to myself. Distribution will change, there will still be an advisor market, there will always be those that want advice. There will be new distributors and ways of selling but I don’t think the overall volume will grow. We will probably have new entrants who will be developing and growing a new market and what will that market look like…I’m not sure. 

We need to work with our clients together going forward. Do I see lots of new products on the horizon… no. I do fear that we will continue to face the challenge of more and more illnesses being added to the critical illness product which I don’t necessarily see as being positive. I do not see sales of living benefits, critical illness and income protection growing significantly. One of the challenges that we have personally in the reinsurance market is that there is probably now as many reinsurers as mid to large insurers, so there is a challenge for us in the reinsurance world for us to remain relevant. Do I see a model when price is the only factor? You have got to be sharp on price but service is key and how you work on initiatives with clients which brings me back to the work we are doing on the electronic transfer of records. Our work with clients is very important. 

Underwriting & Claims News: How important is it for Munich Re to have a strong presence in the market?

ID: Very important. If I talk about presence in the underwriting and claims world, we have been heavily active in AMUS, FOCUS, HCF, HIS & Grid. All of this I see as important. I attended my first health claims forum in the 80s. It is more relevant now than it was then and our involvement is essential.

I think of the LUCID conference which is going into its 5th year. We remain heavily involved, in fact making a slight plug here, I am particularly excited about our interactive science lab which I will be hosting. We will be doing something different, taking a risk actually with something new. I am really excited about this and I would encourage people to attend because it will be excellent. This year we will have members of our Centre of Competence as well as our own UK medical officer Dr Maurice Lipsedge, Consultant Psychiatrist. 

We feel that these events give us the opportunity to not only showcase what we are about but also help the development of the attendees. I have attended every LUCID and presented at the last one. I feel that it has real value in the market and this is demonstrated by the fact that the conference will have over 300 attendees. 

Underwriting & Claims News: What value do attendees bring back?

ID: Members of my team will be interacting with clients, non-clients and competitors and the plenary sessions are always interesting and thought provoking. I want them to come back and say I’ve seen something new, why aren’t we doing that or I saw this and it’s good but we are ahead of the game. Some if it is validating what we are doing and some of that is learning. We can’t send all of our team either so I fully expect those that do attend, to make sure they share what they have learnt with the rest of the underwriting and claims team. I don’t want us to just turn up, I want us to be active. Matt Bone, Head of Underwriting has been chairman of AMUS for the past two years and this year Sean Grainger, Claims Proposition Manager is chairman of the LUCID organising committee. For me that is really important, it’s not about just sitting in the corner, it’s about active participation, leading and directing and we have very capable people doing that.  I want us to be at the forefront. 

Underwriting & Claims News: What do you enjoy about working at Munich Re the most?

ID: The fact that I joined in the 90s suggests that I am either too lazy to look elsewhere or that I do really enjoy the role that I have. I thrive in the culture we have, I love a diverse role and I certainly have one. I feel that we empower people. I get up ludicrously early and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t get huge satisfaction and pride in my role, team and company. 

I think we over-achieve and I take pride in that. Our culture is one where we reward success and hard work. 

Article first published July 2017

Further information

If you would like to discuss this topic further, please get in touch with
Ian Davies
Ian Davies
Head of Protection
+44 (20) 3650 7654