Incoming CII president and keen sailor Jonathan Clark tells Luke Holloway why he is aiming to create a united profession during his year at the helm
Both Jonathan Clark's career and hobby have taken him to distant shores and now, as the new CII president, the global head of business solutions claims at SCOR wants the industry to utilise the diversity of skills available and continue to make a positive difference as a united profession.
"For many years my hobby has been sailing and the sport embodies teamwork, which is something I've always believed is incredibly important," says Mr Clark. "In the way the CII is structured, we have a great opportunity to work together -- we have a massively diverse membership and a massively diverse customer base that we deal with, yet at the same time we're viewed collectively -- the public sees us as one.
"It is absolutely essential that we recognise the diversity of each of us as individuals but share a common purpose of developing trust and accomplishing what is important in our overall vision," he says. "We are about creating an environment where anyone with the capability to excel, succeed and flourish can do so."
The theme of Mr Clark's year in tenure is to develop a united profession and he feels this sits comfortably alongside the CII's dedication to building public trust in insurance and financial planning.
"The reason I chose it as a theme is that it is part of our core and it is important sometimes to remind yourself of the purpose, what the organisation says it stands for.
"True professional standards are beyond exams; they are about ethics, behaviour and continued learning. On the one side you've CEO Sian Fisher rightly looking at our core mission in the Royal Charter of building the trust of the public and then we have the vision of uniting our profession."
Humble beginnings Mr Clark first entered insurance during a gap year in 1976, working for a loss adjusting firm, before joining Thomas Howell full-time in 1981, straight from university. "I left college on the Wednesday and started work on Thursday," he tells us. "The very first claim I dealt with was a wet carpet in Tottenham! We had strong local relationships in the insurance market, so I was authorised to arrange a replacement carpet straight away and get the claim sorted.
"I really believe if we can still do that for a customer today -- which we can -- we're still doing what people are looking for."
Joining the CII through the Watford Institute early in his career, in 2001, he was involved in the strategic review of education, before becoming vice-president of the CII in 2002, then treasurer of the CII from 2003 to 2007.
But despite Mr Clark's active history with the CII, his time as deputy president last year was a valuable opportunity to reconnect with the Institute as it is today.
"One of the dangers is that if you've been involved with something for a long time you assume you know what it is, but of course now we have a very different environment, where the goal is to keep the institute modern and relevant," explains Mr Clark.
"My first aim as president is to help Sian and the executive team through the challenges of their strategic plan, just as Inga Beale and John Moore have done so well before me. Also, I'll be working with Nick Turner, director of NFU Mutual, who is now our deputy president.
"I'd like to see increased visibility for claims and really start lifting the debate around what being professional looks like. Perhaps you can't answer every question you want to in the space of a year, but my role will be to increase the emphasis on important issues and get CII members and fellow professionals talking.
"I want to help show people what a great profession this is to be in. We've sometimes struggled to get that message across in the past, but we've had some fantastic advocates in recent years and I'd like to be another of those."
Outside the bubble
During his career, Mr Clark has already visited nearly every local institute in the UK at one time or another and recent CII events have really impressed him.
"I really enjoyed the Network Conference in Belfast this summer.
It's very easy to exist in your own bubble and it's wonderful that we bring so many people together, talk about our local institutes, hear from others about theirs and see what we can learn from each other.
"I thought the tone of the whole event was spot on," he says. "It was full of committed people from across the profession, there was a great energy and I thought it was very valuable indeed.
"I'm always struck by the enthusiasm of the incredible individuals and teams running our local institutes, as well as those working hard to move things in the right direction," he adds.
With Mr Clark's vision for a more united profession, the CII and its members can be sure the new president will do all he can to chart a true course.
Education Jonathan has an MA in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford and an MSc in Biochemical Engineering from University College
Professional He is now global head of business solutions claims at SCOR Global P & C leading a multi-location international claims team dedicated to the underwriting of large corporate risks Overseas Jonathan is a keen sailor and was a member of the British Sailing Team in the mid-eighties