For some, 15 years may seem like an eternity. For others, that time can seemingly pass in the blink of an eye. Today our Hong Kong team of 26 people manage 10 product lines and value their long-term relationships with the broking community.
Back in 2006, the corporate division of global insurance giant Liberty Mutual opened its Hong Kong office. Fast forward 15 years and that commitment – and desire to contribute to the country’s development – has never been stronger.
Eddie Young was the person Liberty chose to establish the Casualty team in 2006. Eddie, who at that point had 20 years of insurance experience, had an intimate knowledge of the Hong Kong market.
“It was a challenge – we had a very small team, and we all had to get our hands dirty, roll up our sleeves and literally seal the envelopes back then.
“I went from having 40 staff reporting to me to having none in the very early days, but it’s been great – I’ve been given a lot of opportunities, and we’ve really become an integral part of the insurance landscape in Hong Kong.”
Eddie has led the Liberty Specialty Markets Hong Kong team, which now numbers 26, for the past four years – a spell in China to help set up Liberty’s operation at Lloyd's China punctuating his time on the ground in the region.
Eddie’s not alone in being a familiar face in Hong Kong’s insurance scene. Joyce Cheng and Christy Shek both joined Liberty in the first year of operations in underwriting roles. Today, they’re leaders in the business.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by some fantastic people at Liberty,” says Joyce, who is the Regional Underwriting Manager for the Crisis Management product line.
“Professionally, I’ve grown and been given so many opportunities, and personally, the company and the team here have been a significant part of my life.”
The importance of that consistency in insurance cannot be underestimated.
As well as the relationships that are established and maintained with clients, and the depth of knowledge acquired about our clients’ businesses, the knowledge of the local market and relationships with the Hong Kong brokers is incredibly valuable.
“Clients see they can build a long-term relationship with Liberty and with myself,” says Christy, who today leads the Professional & Financial Risks team in Hong Kong.
The importance of those long-term relationships is reflected by the people Liberty works with, too.
Phil Timms, Executive Director at Willis Towers Watson, says, “Liberty has a vision to be best in class and employs great people to achieve this goal.
“In an increasingly mobile talent pool, the Liberty team has remained very consistent, underlining their ethos to promote and grow from within. This is a company clearly loved by its employees.”
Liberty’s culture has been grown and fostered deliberately and is something of which Matthew Jackson, Senior Vice President, Asia Leader at Liberty Specialty Markets, is proud.
“When we hire people, we go through a lengthy process to ensure they will fit in culturally,” he says.
“From our clients’ perspective it matters, because you’re not introducing someone new every two years.”
Of course, while consistency has its benefits, it must be complemented by evolution to be successful.
Since beginning the business with four product lines in 2006, the team now manages 10 out of Hong Kong. The team has local authority and local claims processing to ensure we can deliver the very best service to our clients.
And, while many of the team have been with the company for an extended period, they develop their knowledge and challenge their thinking to ensure they’re delivering the best outcomes.
“We guard against any staleness by constantly challenging one another to keep improving, and bringing in the right new people at the right time,” says Matthew. “In addition, by working closely with the wider Asia Pacific teams, we get different perspectives, and our thinking is challenged.”
As relationships with clients grow, so too do the complexity of the risks the business takes on.
“Often, we need to be even more up to date about the risks our clients may face than our clients themselves are,” says Joyce.
The right solution from a client comes via a range of perspectives, and it’s a Liberty trait to bring all facets of the local team together to find the right solution.
The team takes enormous pride in being a long-term supporter of clients’ insurance programs and has played a role in significant projects in Hong Kong. The team has also supported a wide range of infrastructure projects, including bridges, roads, sewerage plants and rail developments, and was recently involved in the airport expansion.
“It’s nice to be able to be involved in work that is meaningful for Hong Kong and makes a lasting impact,” says Christy.
Those types of projects and that sentiment is synonymous with Liberty’s approach to business. Hong Kong is a vibrant and dynamic commercial insurance market, and one to which Liberty is deeply committed to.
“Everything we do is with the long-term in mind,” says Matthew. “We have very genuine, long-term relationships with our clients and the wider industry, and we’re proud to be part of this industry here in Hong Kong.
“That approach has served us well so far, and will continue to do so.”
And that continual, sustainable evolution is something that’s appreciated by clients and brokers, too.
Patrick Chan, Director and General Manager of Nova Insurance Consultants, has been working with Liberty since it arrived in Hong Kong. He says, “Over the years, the Liberty team in Hong Kong has become bigger and more mature.
“They have a stable and experienced management team and the capability to offer various lines of business by professional underwriters with strong claims and risk engineering support.”
Looking to the future, sustainable growth will continue to be the driving philosophy, and it will always be underpinned by one thing: People.
“Our journey so far has been based upon looking after our people and our clients,” says Eddie. “Do that well, the rest will follow.
“And we’ll continue to do that well.”
From left to right: Christy Shek, Eddie Young, Joyce Cheng