Specialist Spotlight: Ben Cotton

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Specialist Spotlight

Today we caught up with Ben Cotton, an Underwriting Assistant for MX, working in our Commercial team.

Hi Ben, how are you? Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Could you tell us how long you've been with the MX Commercial team, and what you’re responsible for?

Hi there! Thanks for having me.

I’ve worked with my team for over nine years now! We were acquired by Specialist Risk Group in January 2021 and last year rebranded to the Commercial team of SRG's Underwriting pillar, MX.

Most of my time is spent on Renewals and D&O Insurance. Occasionally I will get involved with new business.

Can you describe how you got to where you are now?

I did some work experience at GB Underwriting (now the MX Commercial team) in 2011, I was about 15 years old at the time. The work experience consisted of mostly scanning, and a bit of data processing and of course learning everyone’s cup of tea preference!

The team did a really great job of teaching me the basics of the insurance industry, from this experience I felt that the construction insurance industry was a stable industry to work in, and as my curiosity grew about the job I found I had really thrown myself into the idea of working in insurance.

I finished my A-Levels in 2014 and the team reached out to invite me back, which was a great feeling! I was hired as an Assistant Administrator, which was similar to the work I’d been doing in the work experience role, just with more responsibility.

I was in this role for about two years, and when I turned 20, I was promoted. There were options at the time and the team took their time explaining the paths ahead. I thought that underwriting suited my skills the best, and it was nice to start trusting my judgment more in that role. I reported to Michael Fragnito initially, who was one of my mentors… but everyone in the company taught me so much during this time, you could feel that they really wanted me to excel at the company, and that was a big source of my motivation.

As I grew within the company, I was promoted again! This time I was trained in D&O, and I eventually received my renewal book. Michael was very generous with responsibility and that decision helped me to explore the role and provide me with confidence. My new title would be Underwriting Assistant. At this time, I was working three days a week.

If you spend three days a week as an Underwriting Assistant, how do you spend the rest of your time?

On my two ‘free’ days a week, I work in construction, mostly Scaffolding and Asbestos removal. I am qualified in this area and have worked on over 25 large projects in the UK. The duality of my two roles together provides me with a great change of scenery and helps to inform my underwriting judgements. Although, I wouldn’t recommend asbestos removal in the summer – it is absolutely sweltering! I mostly deal with concrete asbestos, and very rarely we deal with AIB (Asbestos Insulation Board), this is the more dangerous type.

The fact that I’ve physically worked on so many Construction sites helps me to see real life scenarios, especially when it comes to health and safety, which as you might imagine is very important when dealing with asbestos.

It makes you appreciate a well-run risk even more.

When you have your own renewal book you need to be easily contactable, I love the job, so I have no problem answering calls on my days off.

More generally I’m really into travel: some of my favourites were Iceland, mountain climbing in Norway, Japan, Singapore, camping in the Sahara Desert and Australia.

That’s great Ben! What are you most excited about working in the MX Commercial team and by extension Specialist Risk Group?

I love the variety of people in MX now, it’s a great opportunity to network and the social element is fantastic. The MX/SRG events are always great fun and the strategic acquisitions keep things exciting. Despite this growth, no one is forgotten here – even if you’re a part timer!

That’s lovely to hear Ben, we’re so happy to be working with you. What aspect of the role do you enjoy the most?

Speaking with brokers. I enjoy talking to new people and exploring the ins and outs of any business in the construction sector.

I also love the freedom to create my own working style: getting my hands dirty with the asbestos removal role and dusting myself off to help use this experience to help inform my underwriting evaluations.

What are your hopes for our industry?

That IPT stays at 12%!

What advice would you give to new hires?

You should have a desire to learn and make it fun for yourself as well. I like my role because I’m on construction sites, and I need that ‘real’ aspect. Learning more about and choosing an insurance specialism that interests you will help with that.

For example, if you like art, you can go into Art Insurance… it’s completely varied!

And Ben, just for fun: what’s your go-to karaoke song?

The Cure – Friday I’m in Love

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