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Underwriting the risks of the shipping business

Published on Thursday, 12 Apr 2012
Larry Kwok Ming-tat
Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Larry Kwok Ming-tat has a law and logistics education background. He started his career in insurance as a claims executive in the Shipowners’ Protection and Indemnity Club, moving to underwriting nine years ago. He is now marine underwriting manager for the Greater China region for ACE Insurance. He shares some tips with Wong Yat-hei

What’s your academic background?
I studied for my bachelor in business transport and logistics management from Royal Melbourne Institute Technology University. I obtained my LLB from Manchester Metropolitan University part-time. I’m currently studying for an LLM in maritime and transportation law stream at City University of Hong Kong.

How do you start your day? 
My day starts with reading the news on the way to the office. I pay attention to news about shipping, trading, economics, legal updates and issues affecting the insurance business. I also check my e-mails on my phone to see if there are any pressing matters that need urgent attention.

The first task back in the office usually involves receiving updates and reports from team members and also to disseminate instructions or prioritise tasks for the team.

What does your job entail?
My job is to assess and select the risks that our company will insure. Underwriters need an extensive knowledge of areas such as the nature and risk exposure for different kinds of goods, trading and economic conditions and legal knowledge.

Social networking activities such as business lunches or drinks and dinners with clients are a routine part of business in our line of work.

What are the major challenges you have encountered so far?
The maritime and shipping-related insurance and legal knowledge are so broad that one needs years to understand and learn just the basics. This is a never-ending learning process given the ever-changing shipping, legal and economic environment.

There is a need for a strong commitment to learn and grow continuously in this field. Besides the rigorous technical knowledge demanded of the job, insurance is also a people business where you need an outgoing character and soft skills to deal with and mingle with different individuals from diverse industries. The major challenges of this job involve striking a balance between personal relations and gaining business for the company.
What have you learned about your chosen career and what are your plans?
Different countries have their own unique history and culture. This has created unique business and corporate behaviours in different parts of the world. I’m now looking after the Greater China region, and my medium- to long-term goal is to be responsible for an even larger territory where I will have the chance to explore and deal with a wider spectrum of people and business than I do currently.

Any advice for those who plan to enter your industry?
Be determined and have the desire to learn and grow continuously. Underwriting is an excellent long-term career choice for individuals who are strong academically with a right balance of people skills.  

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