AIRMIC’s new chairman talks to StrategicRISK

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AIRMIC’s new chairman, Paul Howard, loved learning about the past, and read history and politics at Keele University. He wanted to become a history teacher, but it was a time when getting teaching jobs was difficult. A chance conversation between a former family neighbour and an acquaintance on the train instead resulting in his starting work on the claims side of a Lloyd’s underwriter. Four years later, he made the switch to underwriting, specialising in fine art, jewellers and specie risks.

Meanwhile, he was doing the Chartered Insurance Institute exams. At one stage, he had the choice of taking one of three subjects: broking, insurance accounts, or risk management. ‘I knew I wasn’t a broker and the accounts didn’t sound very exciting, but risk management was intriguing,’ Howard says. He took the course and found it interesting. Then he discovered the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) and took its diploma.

Howard had started at Lloyd’s in 1984. Toward the end of the ’80s, dark clouds began to gather over the market. Its very survival was under threat because of the weight of asbestos and US environmental liability claims. It was not the best time to be a Lloyd’s underwriter.

His interest and qualifications in risk management provided Howard with an exit route from a job that was no longer challenging him. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in the English Midlands had decided to appoint its first risk manager, and Howard got the job. He had responsibility for the activities of the council and also for the local fire authority.

After a couple of years, he moved to Sainsburys as deputy head of risk and insurance to Andrew Cornish, another AIRMIC stalwart (now a broker).

Having been a member of ALARM, the association for risk managers in the UK public sector, at Sandwell, Howard joined AIRMIC. ‘AIRMIC and I both date from the same year: 1963,’ Howard comments, ‘so I feel I have grown up with it.’

Howard started running marathons in 1999. ‘Well, I had wanted to do it and it was about the time I was starting an MBA, and I thought if I didn’t do it then, I wouldn’t be able to do it.’

Since then, he’s run six marathons in London and one in New York, and served a year as chairman of IRM.

He’ll be running again in the London Marathon in 2010 in aid of Clic Sargent, the charity that he has also made the AIRMIC charity for the year.

Now head of insurance and risk management for Sainsburys, Howard reports to the company secretary who sits on the operating board of the company. He does not hanker after a senior management role; he has one already. ‘Risk management is part of good general management,’ he says.

‘It is a way of making better quality decisions.’