Specialist Spotlight: Sam Hooper

We recently sat down with New Business Operations Manager, Sam Hooper, who shares details of her career development, current role and observations of the changing insurance landscape.


Sam’s professional journey so far

Sam's journey into the insurance industry kicked off when she was just 20 years old, starting out in claims. Feeling the urge to progress and elevate her career, a friend suggested she transition into commercial insurance as an Account Handler after gaining experience in personal lines, particularly car insurance. Venturing into wholesale broking, Sam found herself among peers who shared her passion and knowledge of insurance, providing a conducive environment for her growth within the industry.

After spending three years at Tasker Insurance Brokers (now Jensten), Sam joined Miles Smith eight years ago. Initially serving as an Account Handler for Waste renewals, her adept communication skills quickly caught the attention of her managers. After just 10 months, they encouraged her to pivot to the New Business team—a move that has defined her trajectory ever since.

In her current role as New Business Operations Manager, Sam's responsibilities have evolved from placing risks for Nightlife, Leisure and Entertainment to tackling more complex challenges, including High-risk Liability and Property cases with issues like poor construction. Though managing a team presents its fair share of challenges, Sam finds it immensely gratifying to nurture her team members, helping them realise their full potential and excel in their roles.


The High Potential Programme

Specialist Risk Group’s (SRG) High Potential Programme (HiPo) was a pivotal part of Sam’s career development in 2021 and 2022, where she completed it after returning from maternity leave. The series of workshops are designed to equip individuals with the skills needed to tackle management challenges and enhance leadership abilities.

During the course, which included six workshops, the group delved into various topics such as transitioning from being a buddy to a boss, exploring different management styles and honing leadership skills. Despite the initial round being conducted during lockdown, the 2022 iteration offered a more hands-on experience, with participants working closely as a team.

The schedule included Mind Gym sessions exploring having an impactful presence and building trust in leadership roles. Additionally, the programme incorporated a mentoring stage, where each participant was paired with a mentor from outside the organisation to guide them in their career growth. Monthly meetings provided a platform to discuss challenges and seek advice.

One particularly valuable component for Sam was the 360-degree feedback, where colleagues within the company shared insights on areas of improvement and strengths. The feedback received during the second iteration was especially insightful and helped Sam gauge her progress more effectively.


Sam’s return from maternity leave

Miles Smith were incredibly supportive during Sam’s maternity leave and upon her return to work. Sam initially had a conversation with her manager at the time, Sam Churchman, who was understanding and accommodating. They agreed that she could transition back to work on a full-time basis but over four days, which made balancing work and family responsibilities much more manageable.


A look into Sam’s role and responsibilities

As New Business Operations Manager, Sam’s primary focus is to ensure the well-being and productivity of her team. This involves regularly checking in to make sure they are content with their workload and redistributing tasks if necessary.

On a day-to-day basis, Sam’s role encompasses providing support to the Director and overseeing the management of risks from retail brokers. This entails engaging with brokers, managing quotes with underwriters and facilitating the process of placing them on cover. Additionally, she handles the administrative tasks that accompany these activities to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently.


Common risks the New Business team are met with

Each day the New Business team manage a plethora of new risks. Quite often they receive leisure related risks but face limitations as only one market in Lloyd’s is willing to underwrite such cases. Additionally, the team frequently handle queries concerning small-scale industrial ventures, including waste management, construction, leisure facilities, roofers and property owners.

In the past, the team’s capacity to address these queries was constrained. However since announcing last year the launch of the High-risk Liability facility exclusive to Miles Smith, capabilities in this area significantly bolstered.

Sam explains that Miles Smith has experienced considerable success, reclaiming previous risks and re-establishing relationships with brokers. With rates rising among other brokers, competitive offerings have made Miles Smith an attractive option once again. This increased competition has led to a surge in queries from brokers seeking reliable coverage at competitive rates, further solidifying our position in the market.


Changes in the insurance landscape

Recent industry updates have prompted significant shifts in the insurance landscape, particularly following incidents like the Grenfell tragedy. Lloyd’s has taken on a more prominent role as composite insurers are becoming increasingly cautious about accepting risks associated with cladding. This cautious approach has led to a tightening of the market, making it more challenging for professionals and businesses to secure coverage, especially for liabilities related to scaffolding risks and roofing.

Moreover, external factors such as Brexit, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical conflicts in the East, and inflationary pressures have collectively contributed to rising prices across the industry. These factors have heightened uncertainty and impacted the cost of insurance, adding additional challenges for professionals and businesses alike.

In 2024 so far, Sam has observed a notable trend in the insurance industry where composite insurers are opting to cover only 50% of the risk. This scenario often arises when they offer a first loss limit. However, where insurers only offer a 50% lead, it’s difficult to win the business as some clients choose to remain underinsured and accept the first loss limit, banking on the likelihood of avoiding a total loss.

Despite this trend, Sam has seen a resurgence in queries from roofers and scaffolders, thanks to our recent success with our High-risk Liability facility. While the New Business team occasionally encounter cases with a poor claims history, it's become increasingly important for retail brokers to engage clients in discussions about risk management to mitigate potential issues.

Looking ahead, Sam anticipates that the insurance landscape will continue to present challenges, with the market likely becoming more stringent as the year progresses. However, she’s optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead and expect to secure a steady stream of quality cases, even as the industry becomes more challenging to navigate.


Finally, Sam shares her favourite part of her job

Sam's favourite aspect of her job is undoubtedly the team dynamic. They share plenty of laughs and offer each other unwavering support. Every day presents new learning opportunities for the team as they encounter a diverse array of risks – these contribute to a continuous learning environment made more valuable by Sam’s knowledgeable senior colleagues.

Sam takes pride in building an atmosphere where her team feels comfortable asking questions, no matter how trivial. Providing empathy and support is paramount, whether it's offering professional guidance or simply lending a listening ear. While still refining her managerial skills, having officially assumed the role in December 2023, Sam appreciates the smooth transition, having worked with most of the team before her promotion. The positive reception and newfound respect since returning from maternity leave further reinforce her commitment to nurturing a supportive and collaborative work environment.


Find out more about our exclusive High-risk Liability facility or get in touch with a member of the Broker Relationship Management team.



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Talk to Our Team

020 7977 4800


Author: Miles Smith

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