UK and Ireland boss pinpoints where the insurer sees ’ample opportunity for growth’, despite predicting an increase in business insolvencies  

What initially attracted Sarah Murrow to trade credit insurer Euler Hermes in 2004 was the “international experience” it offered.

This appealed to Murrow, who has a mixed Armenian, American, German, English and Irish heritage, following her childhood as an expatriate in Singapore.

She has now spent 18 years in total working at the firm, across a variety of positions, including 12 years in the US. In June 2021, she was promoted to be the insurer’s UK and Ireland chief executive - the first woman to take on the role.

Following her appointment, in March 2022, Euler Hermes rebranded to Allianz Trade, aligning its company name with parent Allianz Group, which bought the insurer back in May 2018.

As one of the insurance industry’s few female chief executives, as well as a mother of two young daughters, Murrow is a huge advocate of parents and women progressing their career journeys in the insurance sector. She adds that the Covid-19 pandemic has helped parents boost their upwards career trajectory too, thanks to increased digitalisation and hybrid working.

Murrow tells Insurance Times: “The world of trade credit insurance is quite international.

”I do believe that diversity is really good for business - especially in leadership roles - because it challenges, creates and brings beliefs, thoughts and perspectives from a number of different backgrounds.

”I’ve had a lot of encouragement within Allianz Trade and I’ve never felt like I was not able to go for a role or be asked to take a role because of my gender or because of my nationality.

“I do feel like it’s truly a meritocracy and this has created the right environment for me to thrive and to reach the chief executive level.”

Now one year on from her promotion, Murrow believes Allianz Trade is “well positioned” to grow its surety business.

“We have some specialty lines of business and trade credit insurance, such as our excess of loss and our transactional cover unit. We believe that there’s ample opportunity for growth in those [areas] as well,” she adds.

The insurer also plans to further invest in digitalisation, to advance its operations.

Sarah Morrow_Allianz Trade

Sarah Murrow

Long Brexit effects

The current global landscape has recently been rife with trade risks, which Murrow describes as “long Brexit”.

Not only has the economy been volatile both during and following the Covid-19 pandemic - especially as many business profiles have evolved or changed - but there is also rising inflation to contend with and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

Murrow says: “Some businesses are more exposed to [inflation]. We are seeing increased commodity prices, which is creating volatility. All of that added up does paint a gloomier picture as [it] relates to business insolvencies this year.

“We are forecasting a 37% increase in business insolvencies in 2022 – but this is on a very low base and is just slightly higher than what we saw in 2019.”

Credit risk back on the agenda 

Meanwhile, Murrow notes that the continuing war between Russia and Ukraine is impacting trade credit insurance.

The challenges arising from this conflict environment have brought “credit risk back on the agenda” after these risks took a backseat in the face of Covid-19 threats, she explains.

“Businesses are seeing volatility in the market and the commercial activity that we’re seeing around trade credit insurance is confirming that,” Murrow continues.

“[The war is] obviously a devastating situation that has been unfolding over the last few months. From a business perspective, we have been very cautious in our underwriting stance for buyers in Russia and especially Ukraine.

“The result of that situation and the impact that it has had on UK businesses - particularly around the cost of energy - is causing some challenges in our whole market. We are no longer writing new coverage in those markets.”