James Whitlam Anniversary Blog

By Lucy Spruce - November 02, 2023

Our Product Director of Data and Analytics recently celebrated his fourth anniversary at Concirrus


What have been your stand-out moments during your time at Concirrus? 

Looking back over the four years since I joined the business, there has been a tremendous amount of change and transition, both from a global perspective, as well as internally within the business. 


A brilliant quote from Yuval Noah Harari sums up the changes that we are seeing and experiences in the context of technology; “...every 10 years, you are likely to lose your job or your job is going to be completely transformed by the new wave of the latest machine learning wizardry. And if you want to stay in the game, you will have to basically reinvent yourself — and not just once, but repeatedly." 


Globally, digitisation has become a fundamental part of modern-day business. Leveraging tangible value from data analytics is, however, a newer element of digitisation, particularly within marine insurance. Understanding the industry whilst also challenging the status quo has put Concirrus at the heart of underwriting and has enabled us to build meaningful relationships and trust in the industry. 


Leading the Product team over the last six months, we’ve been focused on honing our processes and ensuring that everyone is steering in the same direction.  On a personal level, it has been hugely satisfying leading this effort and seeing the results start to come through with some exciting releases we have made recently, with plenty more to come.  


The opportunities I’ve had whilst with Concirrus to take part in industry debate and media events have been a real highlight. This has included being on ITV News at 10, featuring in the New York Times, as well as top tier trade press including Tradewinds.  Having the opportunity to collaborate with IUMI and its Big Data and Digitisation Forum has also given me a fantastic platform to further build relationships and collaborate with industry thought leaders.   


What would you say have been the biggest challenges? 

In the early days of the company, there were multiple priorities and potential products which, at the time, meant we were quite thinly spread – normal for a company emerging into new markets and testing ideas. Now, we’ve gained momentum and created the team, processes and products that enable us all to pull together in the same direction. 


Central to this was pinning down our vision; something that the team could get behind. The next vital step was to develop a strategy to achieve that vision and instil this vision within the business to create teams of missionaries, not mercenaries (quote from John Doerr). 


Another challenge is striking the right balance between meeting customers’ needs and challenging the market with innovation that they might not think they need, be aware of or are ready to adopt. The sweet spot is understanding the direction of travel, but also disrupting it in our own way to bring about positive change for the industry. 


What’s the best thing about Concirrus? 

I would say the best thing is having the opportunity to challenge the status quo, and everything that comes with that.  


Being creative and courageous in our decisions and building a business that doesn’t necessarily conform or reflect other organisations in the industry but instead, carves our own unique approach that is liberating and exciting. 


We’re autonomous in our approach which gives us the agility to pivot when needed which has been invaluable in our development.  


What would you like to see in the future? 

Moving forward, we will be taking a more holistic view of the insurance market. We've invested heavily in building foundational, ground-breaking technology, and we now need to make it easier for these capabilities to be embedded within the value chain across the industry, unlocking information and additional value from areas that are currently underserved.  


We’ve been deliberately focusing on specific lines of business, mainly the marine insurance market.  However, the challenges underwriters face are common across all specialty markets so for us, we want to broaden the scope of our offering into those other markets.  This is already something that we’re actively working on, so I am looking forward to us being able to share more about this in the coming months.   


What would you like your legacy to be? 

The legacy I’d want to leave is a continued curiosity; this is something that I feel promotes an ongoing culture of learning. Things are always changing in technology, in life, in business, and it’s important for people to adapt and adopt.  It’s also about curiosity within the context of our customer base.  We need to be relentlessly pushing to deeply understand the opportunities and pain points they face and then bring in our own expertise and thinking to find solutions that are fit-for-purpose.  


From a Concirrus perspective, I’d say we want to be known for our ability to drill down into the detail to build useful products. To pinch a fabulous phrase from my partner, it’s not so much a birds-eye view as a ‘giraffe’s view’, we have a great overview of what’s happening, but our feet are placed firmly on the ground. 


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