Neil Smith is the CEO of Hampden Agencies and has run the premier Lloyd’s Members Agency for more than a decade. He has been instrumental in growing the business to become largest provider of private capital into the Lloyd’s market.
Smith’s team specialises in the preservation and enhancement of investments via individual underwriting vehicles. Their main roles are to manage legacy assets for clients and to help enhance their value, whilst actively facilitating the introduction of new capital and therefore furthering individuality and diversity of private investor capital. One of the core components of Smith’s team is HUR (Hampden Underwriting Research), which through its research capabilities performs market interrogation and due diligence, which are key to the all important syndicate support decisions. The outputs of his team are well known by many for the Hampden outperformance of its peer group and of the Lloyd’s market average return, for 15 straight years.
The Hampden Agencies client base has continued to change over the years, and particularly recently. Although Lloyd’s capital sources were once singularly the preserve of HNW families and individuals, the return on capital investment has been seen by many as a steady beacon in what has been a very choppy financial environment. This in turn has attracted far larger sums of investment, whether they be via direct family office investments, international endowment funds, or straight corporate investors, who wish to access our market insight and profitability. ‘I am delighted that the newer forms of capital are complementary to the existing more traditional forms and indeed assist with the attraction and support of new syndicate opportunities,’ says Smith.
The past 12 months in particular at Lloyd’s have been very interesting, says Smith, with a new CEO and a new Chairman, ‘both of whom we understand to have an appetite to continue the modernisation of the trading platform that is Lloyd’s, whilst pushing the product proposition to the highest experiential position,’ says Smith. Alongside this is the challenge that the 2017 account loss from the US Windstorms and Hurricanes is likely to be the largest loss that Lloyd’s has faced.
This being said, the capital adequacy of the market is sufficient to contain it, whilst ensuring there is enough fire power to continue to actively trade forwards, he adds. The combination of loss and a prolonged period of a soft rating environment has further increased the pressure upon the market. Lloyd’s underwriters are, however, skilled practitioners and with the disciples that are core to their very being and with oversight by the Franchise Directorate, will ensure that business is written for profit and not premium.
When asked, Smith was confident that the future for Lloyd’s and Hampden remains bright. ‘The unstoppable rise of technology will certainly have an impact on efficiencies and business planning models, together with the ever-increasing awareness of the environment and how this interacts and influences our market, and the risks covered. It will mean that we have to continue to be smart as to the businesses we support, continually diligent in who we ‘take on’ as clients and importantly maintain and improve upon the speed and delivery of new products to our clients. I feel that our team really is accelerating the breadth of innovation in the market and that can only be a good thing.’