Jim Duncan, General Manager of Chubb Insurance, was recently
He sat down with Irish Broker for an interview to mark his
appointment and discuss his objectives for the year ahead.
Congratulations on your appointment, Jim. What does
this role mean to you?
It is such a privilege to have been elected President of The
Insurance Institute. I see it as a largely ambassadorial role,
which provides a significant opportunity to give something
back to the industry.
My term as President comes right in the middle of the rollout of The Insurance Institute’s three year strategic plan, so I
look forward to setting agenda and influencing the direction of
the organisation, in line with strategic priorities.
There is so much going on in the wider economy and for
our industry to continue to be relevant, we need to become
more innovative; providing solutions, offering products and
services to our customers in a more effective way as well as
developing new products for emerging risks.
The Insurance Institute recognises the vital role it has
to play in achieving these goals, with redesigns of current
qualifications of the Professional Certificate in Insurance (APA)
and the Professional Diploma in Insurance (CIP) to align with
industry needs, along with the addition of new programmes
such as the Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship. These are
very exciting times, so I’m delighted to get involved.
How did you get started in the insurance industry?
Like many people, I would describe it as a circuitous route.
I’m from Scotland and after school I completed a degree in
Engineering and Management. I then – unusually enough –
became an Inspector in the Royal Hong Kong police for three
and a half years, before returning to third level education and
carrying out postgraduate research at Edinburgh University in
Fire Investigation. This was my route into insurance, as I met
some Loss Adjusters while at university who encouraged me
to enter the profession via Loss Adjusting with Ellis & Buckle,
now Cunningham Lindsey, in Glasgow in January 1992.
I worked in the Glasgow and Aberdeen offices and while
on a trip to Dublin, I met my wife. I moved across to Ireland in
1994 to join Chubb Insurance – who coincidentally I now find
myself back working for following the acquisition of Chubb by
ACE in January this year.
The integration of the ACE and Chubb businesses must
have kept you busy. Can you give us an overview of
your new role?
ACE purchased Chubb in a worldwide deal worth €29.4
billion, which closed on 14 January, so it has certainly been a
busy few months.
It is a very exciting time for the company. We’ve retained
the Chubb brand even though ACE was the acquirer. They
were two very successful organisations, so really it was a
wonderful opportunity to bring them together. Chubb has two
businesses in Ireland. Chubb European Group has branches
in Dublin and Belfast, which focus on indigenous Irish and
Northern Ireland businesses. We provide a full range of
property and casualty products to firms of all sizes through
our broker partners. We also have a well established accident
“While the ACII has undoubtedly been a factor in my progress in the industry, I would
say the commitment to lifelong learning and continuing professional development has
contributed even more so to my advancement to the position I am in today”
“A key strategic priority for The Insurance Institute is to raise the profile of a career
in insurance among those at second and third level education, in conjunction with
the general insurance market, so we can ensure we’re hiring the very best talent into
and health division as well as Masterpiece the high net worth
offering. I am Ireland Regional Manager.
In addition we have an international insurance business
called Chubb Bermuda International based in Dublin with
a branch in London. This is a low frequency high severity
business focussing on large multinational businesses and I
am the CEO of this business.
You have plenty of qualifications to your name, including
the Advanced Diploma in Insurance (ACII). How much do
you think your qualifications have contributed to your
success in the industry?
The best way to describe my securing the ACII is a
relatively short amount of time studying and sitting exams,
however the duration it took to complete the qualification was
I sat four of the Advanced Diploma exams when I first
started in Loss Adjusting back in 1992. When I moved to
Ireland, I became involved in Risk Management and so I
completed a number of Risk Management qualifications. I
then circled back after a number of years to take the last few
exams and finish the ACII.
While the ACII has undoubtedly been a factor in my
progress in the industry, I would say the commitment to
lifelong learning and continuing professional development has
contributed even more so to my advancement to the position
I am in today. As professionals, the sector and our customers
require us to stretch ourselves and continuously improve our
competencies. It is a changing risk environment so we need
to constantly refresh our knowledge and I believe throughout
my career I have tried to do that and encouraged others to do
One of The Insurance Institute’s strategic priorities,
which I think they have been successful in implementing to
date, is to work in partnership with industry experts in their
development of qualifications and CPD. This ensures that
offerings are always relevant to individual members’ roles,
and will undoubtedly contribute to their career advancement.
At the moment, I am in the process of submitting my thesis
for the FCII which is almost complete, so I look forward to
achieving this educational milestone within the next few
What advice would you give to young school leavers or
graduates looking to start a career in insurance?
First and foremost, I would encourage any young person
who is considering their career choices to be open-minded
about insurance. A significant challenge that the industry has
experienced throughout the years has been communicating
effectively the opportunities that exist within the insurance
industry. As a result, school leavers and graduates have
formed a view of our sector that is often not fully representative
of what a career in insurance can involve.
A trend we’ve seen time and time again is that a lot of
insurance professionals – myself included – will say they
took a circuitous route into the sector or that they ‘fell’ into
it, but once they got in they were surprised at how fulfilling
a career insurance can be. I have teenagers who worked in
the industry for a brief summer period, and even they were
surprised at the energy and variety that exists – it’s something
that needs to be experienced first-hand.
There is a broad range of hugely interesting areas within
insurance, but these aren’t generally known to the wider
labour market and as a result we are seeing major talent
shortages in the industry. Of course there are fantastic people
who are joining the profession, but this is still an area we need
to work on.
To counteract this trend, a key strategic priority for
The Insurance Institute is to raise the profile of a career in
insurance among those at second and third level education, in
conjunction with the general insurance market, so that we can
ensure we are hiring the very best talent into our organisations.
The Insurance Institute is heavily involved in the
development of a professional apprenticeship scheme
for the insurance industry. Is this something you’ll be
getting involved in its development as President?
Absolutely, I’m fully committed to the rollout of the
apprenticeship programme and I think this will go a long way
“There is a broad range of hugely interesting areas within insurance, but these aren’t
generally known to the wider labour market and as a result we are seeing major talent
shortages in the industry”
l continued overleaf
will give new
entrants a longer
term view of the
to see insurance
as an exciting
just a job”
towards addressing the challenges around attracting young
people into the industry.
I think the apprenticeship will give new entrants a longer
term view of the industry and encourage them to see it as an
exciting profession, not just a job. The industry’s investment
in apprentices will allow them to have a line of sight in terms
of career progression, continuous improvement and the
opportunities afforded by professional qualifications, which in
turn should reduce staff turnover within organisations.
For young people too, the apprenticeship offers a credible
alternative to the ordinary college route, allowing them to earn
a salary while taking on their degree – an attractive prospect
The programme’s framework gives a structure for
advancement that has not existed in the past and we have seen
how successful apprenticeships have been in other European
countries. I think the Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship
will be no different, so I look forward to following its progress
when it launches in September this year.
What else is on your agenda for your year as President?
There is so much going on in our market and it is important
for us to remind ourselves to recognise the fundamental role
of The Insurance Institute as the profession’s training and
education partner. It would be remiss of us not to comment
on the challenges that are out there for the insurance industry
and I think The Insurance Institute has a vital role to play in
helping the sector to address these.
Some challenges are impacted by what is going on in the
global economy and obviously it is great to see significant
improvement and growth come into our own economy in
recent years; however there are still some structural issues
within the insurance industry and there is more work we as
a professional body can do to encourage a focus on the
customer and customer centricity.
I believe that an insurance transaction must make
sense for each of the stakeholders involved – the customer,
the regulator, the broker, the insurance company and the
reinsurer. It is certainly quite apparent that in recent years our
industry has suffered in terms of profitability and there have
been some issues with service in certain areas. So while our
focus is very much on training and development within The
Insurance Institute, I do think that links very much into the
workings of the industry at large and it’s important for us to
see that connection.
The Insurance Institute does not operate in isolation
from our broad ranging industry and those large systemic
challenges that we face. I believe we must continue our work
with stakeholders such as Insurance Ireland and the IBA to
open a dialogue where we can discuss the significant changes
we have to make within the industry to make well informed
decisions that will ultimately bring our industry a far greater
degree of stability than we’ve seen in recent years.
There has been too much short termism in the industry in
the last number of years and that has involved all stakeholders,
so we need to plan for the medium to long term.
Finally Jim, how do you like to spend your free time?
Any free time I get, I like to spend time with my wife and
three kids, Conor, Ceile and Aisling. We do a lot of walking
and hiking, which we really enjoy. We have also recently
moved from Meath to Malahide, so that has focussed a lot of
In recent years I have done Gaelforce West, a triathlon in
Westport a few times so if I can find a bit of time this year, I’d
like to start training again for that.
“I believe we must continue our work with stakeholders such as Insurance Ireland
and the IBA to open a dialogue where we can discuss the significant changes we
have to make within the industry to make well informed decisions that will ultimately
bring our industry a far greater degree of stability than we’ve seen in recent years”