‘When you consider that the underwriting capacity for the Lloyd’s market is currently around £30 billion with Hampden advising around £2 billion, then it’s clear that we handle a significant chunk of the market’s capital support,’ says Neil Smith. He began his career in 1984 in the regulatory division at Lloyd’s, and is now CEO of Hampden Agencies Ltd, a Lloyd’s agency specialising in underwriting membership of Lloyd’s. ‘As Lloyd’s has traded for 328 years, we effectively manage a trade for our clients,’ Smith says. Hampden operates at the ‘higher end’ of the risk spectrum when compared to the investment strategies that individuals might employ and as such advises wealthy investors, usually those with a wide ranging and sophisticated portfolio.
As a long time market participant – and one who has seen a huge amount of innovation and change – Smith firmly recognises and values the traditional strengths of the marketplace, in which he has spent the majority of his working life. These core strengths include the ability of underwriters to assess and price risk, to ensure that clearly defined and appropriate policy terms and conditions are applied and — importantly — that entrepreneurialism remains alive and nurtured. These principles, aligned to a strong balance sheet, are what Hampden looks for.
Hampden’s focus is to ensure that it places capital support behind the best businesses within the Lloyd’s market. The balancing of exposure across a diversity of risks has been, and remains, key to Hampden’s success. Smith firmly believes that capital has to remain flexible and to move with the market — favouring a long-term, successful approach, he also considers underwriting at Lloyd’s as being an investment for the future. ‘The market has many influences, not just pricing, rates and risk: but also clients’ ability to provide the capital, to flex, increase and to drawback as market conditions dictate. ‘We have to manage all of these expectations with the continued aim of returning a profit for the client,’ Smith explains. The majority of Hampden clients underwrite through Limited Liability Vehicles (LLVs). This enables families to share in returns, which in turn makes it possible to transfer the business from one generation to the next.
Hampden very much adopts a client-facing approach. ‘The fact that we get to know the clients well means that we understand their risk appetite [and] their wealth profile – and that underwriting decisions are based upon this all important data. No two clients’ profiles are the same, which is why this is such a client focussed business.’ Smith says. ‘We get in front of our clients at least twice a year along with their family members and are in regular contact, in order to discuss and advise them of matters important to their underwriting decisions.’ This is a practitioner who provides a highly families-oriented service.