James McCrone is a client manager at Aon Artscope in London. The 23-year-old was employed by the company after a chance meeting with Aon Risk Services chief executive Mike Eve, a customer he served while working in a City bar.
As a result, McCrone undertook a period of work experience at the high net worth arm of Euclidian and decided to pursue a career in insurance after finishing his business degree at City University.
“Mike assured me I would find the insurance industry very interesting and I discovered just that. It's a very social market and the job is extremely varied,” says McCrone.
He was appointed to Aon's high net worth arm in Farnborough and Caterham, and later moved to London to take up his current position.
He says: “The team I joined is quite young, but there is a low turnover of staff and people are very dedicated, which means they have a high level of expertise in the market. For example, Alison Hillier, one of the company's directors, has now worked at Aon for 17 years.”
Aon Artscope concentrated solely on about 800 private clients, insuring art, antiques and collectibles, until October 2000, when the company acquired commercial high net worth firm Needham Jobson.
“This exposed us to the other side,” says McCrone. “Needham Jobson fitted into Aon Artscope's ideology of being attentive to the needs of the client and being able to write policies individually, but allowed us to expand the book of business.”
McCrone's day-to-day job involves dealing with new clients, liaising with underwriters – mainly Hiscox and Axa – to get the best premiums and handling claims. “I have a book of clients that is my responsibility to look after,” he says.
“We sell ourselves on personal service, which can mean going out to meet the client, arranging valuations and offering policy add-ons.”
Extra services include cover for classic cars, jewellery, household buildings and contents and yachts.
He also gets involved when it comes to promoting the company to potential clients, such as at the annual trade fair for the British Antique Dealers Association and the Grosvenor House Fair.
McCrone believes new business is a particularly challenging area. “We need to ask a lot of questions to present to the underwriter and also make suggestions, such as offering valuations to avoid under-insuring,” he says.
Aon Artscope's book of clients includes high net worth householders, auctioneers, private art collectors and art dealers. The company builds up its existing business mainly through word of mouth.
“We use antique trade magazines, although we do not believe in aggressive advertising – recommendations seem to work better, as you are already one step ahead when it comes to client trust,” says McCrone.
Another of McCrone's daily tasks involves keeping track of client claims and liaising with underwriters if there are any problems.
“We will only get involved if there is a hitch, in which case we fight on behalf of the client,” he says.
The people he most respects in the insurance industry are Mike Eve, who has now retired from Aon, and Andrew Willoughby of Euclidian.
“Both have a real passion for the business, which is refreshing, as I speak to a lot of people who are very down about their jobs.
“Mike got to the top of his profession and both have been a big influence on me, as they are very encouraging.”
He also believes Andrew Jobson, who set up Needham Jobson, has been a big influence in turning Aon Artscope's business around.
“He provided us with a new impetus to grow the book of business. Aon Artscope was a cash cow before and constantly had good results, but now it is more dynamic.”
McCrone believes that local brokers have a great deal of driving force in the high net worth market, which all the larger brokers should try to emulate.
“Clients always like to have one point of contact so they feel valued and important,” he says.
Aon therefore writes all its letters to clients individually and gives them one client manager to call with queries.
“The essence is to be able to deal with a number of client needs in one package, so they have a single annual premium. If they want professional indemnity or travel insurance, we arrange an all-risks policy,” says McCrone.
In the long-term, McCrone would like to stay with Aon and is currently taking ACII examinations to allow him to progress up the career ladder.
“It is important to keep learning and to constantly look for a new challenge, or you just stagnate in your present position,” he says.
“The insurance industry is a very interesting place to work and I believe if you are ambitious, you can go far.”