David George, managing director of the aviation division, United Insurance Brokers
How did you make it to where you are today?
I started as a premium processor at Stewart Wrightson and moved on to the aviation broking team when Stewart was bought by Willis. I moved around and spent four or five years broking the Willis general aviation account, which was great training and exposure to all sorts of problems and negotiations.
I finally settled in the Asian airline team where I spent my last 10 years or so at Willis, broking accounts ranging from Turkish Airlines to Indian Airlines to Garuda. I competed often against Bassem Kabban; we got to know each other well and he offered me my new role at UIB three years ago.
What are the key challenges ahead?
We are beginning to see the signs of a hardening market in aviation. In the medium term there are concerns over how the credit crunch will affect our clients’ business and how many will suffer downturns – or even cease trading. This will only increase the level of competition on brokers and put pressure on brokerage and fees.
What has changed the most since you started?
Apart from the FSA, and Spitzer? Really the amount of compliance paperwork seems to increase every day. Underwriters’ authority has been eroded from a marketing perspective and they are now under intense scrutiny from actuaries, peers, regulators and capital providers. Regulation is needed, but the level of conformity has certainly driven some of the character and characters out of the market.
What is your biggest mistake?
In my eagerness to embrace new technology, I insisted that we posted the hundreds of renewal certificates of a major airline on the web, without testing the system fully. The renewal date was a Saturday and they were all uploaded on Friday afternoon for the client to access that evening which, of course, he couldn’t. Luckily, we got back to the office to send them manually.
And your biggest success?
We have grown the aviation division significantly at UIB year on year; it has been a great pleasure to work with the team to achieve this. To see others inspired and feeling empowered to succeed is very satisfying.
When you are not working, what do you do to relax?
To be honest, I am never completely “not working”. However, I do have a young family and I try to spend as much time as I can with them when I am not in the office or travelling. We like to spend as much time as we can at our house in France, but if we are in London we always try to catch up with friends. To really switch off I like to swim. I also try to go to the theatre as often as I can.
What is your favourite book/film/football team?
I love movies and picking a favourite is quite difficult – although The Godfather is a top contender. My favourite book is probably I, Claudius by Robert Graves. It has everything.