Daniel Nicholls, Miller Insurance Services LLP

Daniel Nicholls, Miller Insurance Services LLP

University I Broker I Manage North American business stream for Miller’s Onshore Energy team

Who is your employer?

Miller Insurance Services LLP, a Lloyd’s of London wholesale and specialty insurance broker.

What is your role?

I lead the North American business stream for Miller’s Onshore Energy team. This involves placing property insurance policies for any clients within the Midstream Energy (pipelines, storage terminals), Downstream Energy (refineries, petrochemical, chemical and plastic plants), Power Utility (all types of power stations and associated equipment), and Renewable Energy (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass etc) industry sectors for Canada, USA and Mexico.

I am a producer and placing broker, which means that I travel to meet with clients and their local insurance brokers to win new business; and then go into Lloyd’s of London and to company insurance carriers to place their policies.

As a stream leader I have significant management responsibilities for my direct reports which includes ensuring their growth and career development plus wider management responsibilities of budgeting, compliance and strategy/recruitment.

What were you doing before this role?

I have been a placing broker within Onshore Energy for 13 years. I have had producing responsibilities for 6-7 years. I have been a stream leader for 4 years.

What degree did you study for, and from which university?

BA Geography (Hons) at the University of Leeds.

What do you do in a typical working day?

A typical working day in London is as follows; I get into work around 8:45am, and often have meetings first thing to prioritise workflows with my team, or management meetings. This is usually followed by a session at my desk catching up on emails/contract review etc, before picking up my slip case and then heading into the insurance market (Lloyd’s & company markets) to have face-to-face meetings with underwriters between 11:30 and 1pm. The whole insurance market lunches between 1pm and 2:30pm (as Lloyd’s is closed between these hours). This may mean a lunch with an underwriter, or grabbing a sandwich at my desk, or going to a lunchtime lecture to keep abreast of latest developments in my relevant sectors. In the afternoon I will be broking again from 2:30pm, or back to the office to put up quotes in writing to clients. Due to the time difference with my clients, the afternoon often involves numerous calls with them. I will usually try and leave the office by 6pm, but sometimes have to take calls in the evening when at home. If we have clients over, then we tend to wine and dine them in the evenings.  

There is quite a lot of travel in my role, I am in US/Canada/Mexico every other month for at least a week each time. When on the road, then there isn’t really a typical working day, but it invariably is a blur of plane journeys, hotels, client’s offices and meetings in restaurants. Business travel is invariably not glamorous, but it does afford you the chance to see new places and experience different things which I enjoy.

How does your role fit into the wider insurance picture?

I am a wholesale broker, which means that the business comes to me in London through domestic retail brokers or cedents. These are brokers or insurance companies local to the insured, so in my case in the US, Mexico or Canada. Miller is an independent broker, which means we can work with any retail broker from any company. Miller does not have offices in any of the countries I service, so we rely on the strength of the relationships we build and our expertise to ensure we see business.

The other model is probably more familiar in that the large broking houses like Aon, Marsh, Willis, JLT and AJG have offices around the globe and retain the business within their own network. So, for example an Aon office in Houston will send the business they are working on to their Aon office in London to access Lloyd’s.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

When I am retired and look back on my career, I will relish the personal aspect of my job and the strength of the relationships I have built over many years, with people from diverse backgrounds.  This is probably what I enjoy most. The insurance industry is an extremely sociable industry.  

On a day-to-day basis I still get a buzz from getting deals over the line. As much as just the mention of the word ‘insurance’ makes people’s eyes glaze over in boredom, the London market is actually at the forefront of the world’s insurance industry continually innovating and designing new products. Insurance underpins the global financial system and is integral to the safety and security and the development of society. I’m actually quite proud of my small contribution.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Insurance if there for the unforeseen, so managing events when they arise can be challenging. Recently the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes and Mexican earthquakes have made some renewals very challenging! Losing an account is also always frustrating. As I work with intermediaries who ultimately manage the relationship with the insured, you can often lose accounts through no fault of your own. It’s just the nature of the business though, and you learn to celebrate the successes and look to the next one when things don’t go to plan.

What do you need to be successful in your role?

In a relationship driven business, it helps to be engaging and personable. For face to face broking the ability to assimilate information quickly and think on your feet helps immeasurably. As insurance is continually evolving, it helps to be open and interested in change

Have you taken any professional qualifications?

Yes, I have a Diploma from the Chartered Institute of Insurance (DipCII)

What have been your career highlights so far?

Winning various new accounts are always a career highlight. I have also developed some new products in the midstream energy and renewable energy space that have gone on to become market standards, of which I am proud. I also take pride in the development and growth of my team.

What are the main benefits of working in the profession?

The insurance industry is fairly recession proof, unlike other industries, everyone always needs insurance. London is the global centre of expertise for the industry; although insurance is prevalent throughout the world, so it gives opportunity for travel and working abroad. As there are so many aspects to the insurance industry, it is possible to take what you learn along the way and reinvent yourself into different roles. It’s professional services so the salaries and benefit packages are good, with a potential for almost unlimited financial reward at the top echelons of the industry. 

Why did you choose a career in insurance?

You might hear this a lot from people in the insurance industry, but I didn’t really choose insurance, it chose me. When I first got into the industry I didn’t know what it was about. There were none of these type of insights (which is why I believe they are so important). I thought I wanted to be a banker, but knew someone, who knew someone who had a chat with me over a cup of coffee and offered me a job which I took because I didn’t have anything better on offer. It was invariably the best decision I ever made.

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