“I remember going to a restaurant once a year, I never went on vacation, and when I followed my childhood, I never went to college because we couldn’t afford it. “said Kerridge, who grew up in the UK. .
“I guess I fell into insurance because that was the opportunity I had at the time.”
Kerridge got his insurance break when he landed a job at Barclays Bank aged 18 and hasn’t looked back since. He has worked at Hiscox for 26 years now and has been CEO of Hiscox USA since May 2021. He has also served on the board of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association since 2022.
The leader has, at different times, been responsible for the insurer’s digital commercial insurance push in the UK and US.
Removing the “stigma” of insurance
Kerridge, who said there was a “really tough business advantage” in bringing diverse perspectives, believes his experience helped him build values that set him up for success.
“I come from this background where we weren’t well off, and I think that’s a good thing, actually, because it shapes you as an adult to not take things for granted, to have values and all that – hard work and effort,” Kerridge said.
While the butcher and housewife’s son may have fallen somewhat into insurance, historically considered by some to be the bank’s less attractive cousin, he said insurance company that he believes the industry has become a more attractive destination for talent looking to “deliberately” develop a career there.
“At the time [around 30 years ago]insurance has always had a bit of a stigma, it’s a place you’ve walked into if you haven’t gone into proper banking,” Kerridge said.
“I often think how very different it is now; it’s almost completely reversed and insurance is an exciting place now with the advent of using data and technology, and it’s a really good place to build a career.
Diversity of thought may be something Kerridge is passionate about, but it was the diversity of experience in the early days of his career that helped him become a more versatile and successful leader. Kerridge has worked in marketing, operations, underwriting and business development with brokers, and hailed the “spider’s web” – or trying out different roles – as the key to versatility.
The rise of the Internet
It was the growth of the Internet that pushed Kerridge to new heights at Hiscox in the late 1990s.
“The internet was coming, people started using it, and we had dial-up modems – come to think of it [dial up] was really painful actually – but that’s where it started,” Kerridge said.
Kerridge was invited to a meeting with Bronek Masojada, then Hiscox Group Chief Executive, and asked to come up with a proposal on how the company could get the most out of the internet.
What followed three months later was a luncheon – Kerridge said he still remembers the meeting vividly – at which he was given the immediate green light to go ahead with a direct internet proposal at the consumer.
“He [Masojada] I had two questions to ask myself… the first was: ‘do you want to do it, make it work and turn it on?’ and the second question was, ‘how much seed money do you need?’
“And over lunch, literally, we agreed I would and he had given me a million pounds in seed money to get it started.”
And so Hiscox’s digital push in the UK was born, with the launch of the business – which Kerridge described as “truly insurtech before insurtech was even a word” – in 1999.
Hiscox attacks the United States
Ten years later, at another lunch with Masojada, who was then CEO, plans would be set in motion for the launch of Hiscox USA. Given the UK’s position as a relatively small territory and its maturity at the time from a digital e-commerce perspective, the big question was where Hiscox could adopt its formula next.
The result was a two-week trip to the United States which, for Kerridge, then working for the insurer’s UK digital business, yielded surprising results. Two things struck him, with the US market appearing at the time to be around “seven years” behind the UK.
“The first was that no one was doing small ads online,” Kerridge said. “I mean, I just couldn’t believe it, I was trying to make sure I didn’t miss anything.”
The second was the regulatory environment in the admitted market, which was “very burdensome 13 years ago compared to the UK”.
Build a 600,000 font digital business
When Hiscox USA launched in 2010, it was the first small commercial insurer to offer a digital proposition for small businesses, according to Kerridge.
“I still pinch myself today that this unknown international company came along and built a national digital powerhouse,” he said.
“We’re sitting here today with over 600,000 policies in effect on this digital platform, which when other carriers hear this they’re like ‘holy cow, that’s an incredible amount of scale in a relatively short period of time “.”
While digital business is – perhaps unsurprisingly – close to Kerridge’s heart, global insurer Hiscox has also been expanding its US offering in areas such as kidnapping and ransom, terrorism, media, entertainment and some of the “more traditional lines that we world famous,” Kerridge said.
So what’s next for Hiscox USA and Kerridge?
With 32 million small businesses in the United States, and Hiscox USA covering approximately 600,000 of them, there are still plenty of opportunities for growth.
“I would like to think that my legacy when I finally retire, and that’s a long way off, is that I leave a company that has a very good reputation in the market, because it’s important to us, but a business that is many times its scale today, so multi-billion dollars rather than a billion, but also incredibly profitable,” Kerridge said.
Hiscox USA CEO Kevin Kerridge on:
Building a quintessentially American business…
“We’re just a normal American company, we don’t see ourselves as a global company, what we do here is very country focused. We’re here to build America’s premier insurer for small businesses, that’s what we want to do.
His greatest achievement…
“I really enjoy my time here at Hiscox, whether I was CEO or before. I always jump out of bed at 4am every morning, I can’t wait to come to work, so I think about a lot of little things. What’s exciting for me is that I honestly feel that my greatest achievement is yet to come. [we’ve built] a billion-dollar business in the United States today, with over 600,000 policyholders. I still have the impression that we are only at the beginning.
Feeling the “returning energy” in the broker industry…
“We have made decisions about our appetite, due to some of the most significant risks, above $100 million in revenue, and – apart from a few specialized areas like kidnapping, ransom and terrorism, which are global franchises – really focusing the rump of this brokerage business on small policyholders. It is very profitable, we feel that we are right to win there. And we spent 18 months repositioning the company for that. It ended in May last year.
“Since May, our underwriting teams in the regions…have been on the ground to re-engage and rebuild with brokers, and get back to this profitable growth program. It’s going well, we can feel the energy returning in the company.
The teachings of Robert Hiscox [former Hiscox chair]…
“I was lucky enough to report to Robert Hiscox for a few years when I was in London and there were two things he always said to me. One of them was, ‘I forgive you for losing your money from time to time, but never put me in a position where you make me lose my reputation”. It’s always stuck with me. The other was “volume is vanity, profit is sane “.
Offer an “arm around the shoulder”…
“I remember when, when I joined Hiscox, I looked to others for hope and comfort, and sometimes an arm around my shoulder. And it happened suddenly, and I don’t know when, but you look back and say, ‘Blimey, I’m that person now. I’m the person others turn to for reassurance and a little hope when the going gets tough, and a little coaching.
“[I was recently asked by someone] what advice I would give them that worked for me, and what I told them is that there are two things that I always look for in people who work in the company.
“One just comes to work everyday with a good attitude. The other one comes to work and makes a difference. If you do those two things, you get noticed and doors open because who wouldn’t want a person of the company in his team who possesses these two traits? »