Drumming up business for Lloyd's in the states is a great opportunity, according to America's senior vice-president and director, Wendy Baker, and newly appointed general counsel, Joseph Gunset

Drumming up business for Lloyd's in the states is a great opportunity, according to America's senior vice-president and director, Wendy Baker, and newly appointed general counsel, Joseph Gunset

Wendy Baker quips with a hint of truth: "I am probably a member of the three million mile club." As chief promoter of Lloyd's of London in America, Baker has travelled the length and breadth of her home country in the past 18 months, drumming up interest in the 300-year-old market.

This week alone her gruelling schedule involves flying from the head office in New York to make presentations in Houston and then San Francisco. But whatever the strains of endless flights, the whistle stop touring is paying off. Lloyd's US business was up by 17% in 1999.

Her roving ambassador role is arguably the most important in securing Lloyd's a future in the increasingly global insurance world. Lloyd's US business is worth an estimated $4.8bn a year, about a third of the total market.

"The most difficult part of my job is finding enough time to do it all," Baker says. "We are a very small office trying to cover a very large country."

There appears to be a lot to do. Despite the many years of insuring risks in the US and its famous name, Lloyd's lacks the brand identity it wants and believes it deserves, Baker finds.

"People's perception of Lloyd's runs the gamut," she says. "Some still only think of unusual risks from the past, such as insuring Betty Gable's legs and Liberace's hands. Others think of Lloyd's just for the very large risks, like huge construction projects and drilling rigs.

"There is only a small number of brokers who actually think of Lloyd's in terms of the big and the unusual and the small and mundane – that Lloyd's is a true marketplace with an array of products, covering the whole spectrum of risk."

This is, in effect, Baker's sales pitch in a nutshell. Her presentations usually take an hour, although there is an abridged ten-minute version. "I vary the presentation so that it does not become boring to me and hopefully not boring to my audience," she says. "At the end, I want them to want to find out more about the market."

More often than not she finds a willing audience. Even the bad press days when news coverage highlighted the court cases of non-accepting Names that are claiming the market conspired to conceal huge losses in the 80s has had little impact.

"The audience we are talking to understands that these cases are in the past," she says.

"In fact, the only time I have come across any hostility was from a cabby in Denver. His mood turned sour when he found out that the people in the back of the car worked for Lloyd's.

"But, the press in the States is mainly appealing to the lowest common denominator. "My audience of brokers and risk managers are interested in the future."

Baker has just brought a group of 50 brokers on a recent trip to Lime Street, and it is her fascination for Lloyd's which gives her the most job satisfaction.

She has more than twenty years insurance experience but admits to having little involvement with Lloyd's in the 90s before taking up her current position.

Finding out about the complex structure of the market, its practices and its practitioners has been as new to her as it is to her audiences. She talks of the diverse group of "interesting and innovating" people in the marketplace and likes the fact that it is a fast-moving market. "Lloyds has a terrific future," she added. "Americans like the notion of a market of ideas."

Her position is not target-related but she defines her own goals. Regulatory issues are her next concern, where she is involved with lobbying against barriers to internet trading.

"I think the success of my job is measured by having people call me rather than me calling them," she says.

"When brokers call to ask me to come and talk to their office rather than the other way round, that is when you know they have got the message."

  • Interview by Paddy Gourlay

    Working closely to Wendy is Joseph Gunset, who joined Lloyd's US Regulatory Affairs division on July 5. As an experienced lawyer, his key responsibilities will be to manage Lloyd's licensing and trading status and act as a primary contact for communication with US regulators.

    Primarily, he is a lawyer but he is also a keen lobbyist. He said: "At the top of my list is the re-insurance funding issue."

    His intention is to work with the regulatory community to give release to the market, which is now funding US insurance liability to 100% gross level.

    Of the reactions he had from his former colleagues on his appointment at Lloyd's, Gunset said: "People don't throw comments lightly." The convivial feeling was that it was a great opportunity and a great position, to work at a senior level for a company which has a lot of respect.

    The first month has involved a hectic schedule, which has proved to be an essential learning process. As a result, Joseph claims to be feeling 'a little bit dizzy'.

    His background includes over 15 years in the insurance industry and being a key-player in US regulatory matters. Having worked for Mendes & Mount and, more recently, AIG, familiarity with Lloyd's has eased the transition.

    "The support from the N.Y. office has been heartening and the consistency from underwriters and board members has made my job easier," he said.

    Gunset is clear about his objectives and sums up his role as a "key-player in shaping regulatory relationships". His mission is to act as a liaison between the US regulatory community and Lloyd's managing agents and underwriters in the UK.

    Back in New York, after an exhausting schedule in London, Gunset will have the opportunity to "digest everything" before he continues with his lobbying.

  • Interview by Karen Bans