Risk & Reward: an inside view of the property/casualty insurance business
By Stephen Catlin with James Burke

Risk & Reward is a valuable and thoroughly enjoyable book penned by a legendary underwriter. In effect, it is three short, distinct and very readable books bound into one, although the sections hang together very well.

The first section colorfully explains how the international wholesale insurance market—and especially Lloyd’s—actually works and is chockablock with anecdotes and examples from Catlin’s 45 years in the market. Never before has the global commercial insurance industry been explained (and laid bare) with such coherent simplicity and candor.

The second section is a brief history of Catlin, the author’s Lloyd’s business (now part of the global giant XL Catlin). It begins when Stephen Catlin entered the market in 1973. “I spent the first five years figuring out if it was the most famous insurance marketplace in the world or just a gambling casino,” he writes. This section covers the growth of Catlin from a business employing two people to one employing 2,500, then its acquisitions, and ultimately its merger with XL in 2015.

Alongside the corporate history, Risk & Reward tells fascinating stories about the action and shenanigans at Lloyd’s over the decades. It includes, for example, details of a secret meeting between senior people from Lloyd’s and Marsh in the wake of the World Trade Center attack, when the underwriters successfully convinced the brokers that Lloyd’s was not about to collapse. “If Marsh had decided to stop placing business with Lloyd’s syndicates so soon after 9/11…it could have tipped Lloyd’s over the edge,” Catlin admits.

The third section comprises the author’s personal musings on successful management—Catlin is an extremely credible source—and on the future of the insurance sector. Catlin’s uncanny ability to see around the corner is proven by his track record.

“No one has ever explained our industry’s value proposition. That’s what the book is about,” the author told Leader’s Edge. “This book shows how the parts come together. I hope it helps people who sit outside the industry, work alongside it, or are looking to join it to understand the big picture.”

No doubt it will. But it’s industry insiders who will be most fascinated of all.

Adrian Leonard

Leader’s Edge readers can purchase hardbound copies of Risk & Reward for the discounted price of £19.99 (equivalent to about $26) plus £9.99 ($13) shipping and handling, by ordering directly from the publisher, Iskaboo Publishing Ltd. (iskaboo.co.uk). Please enter Coupon Code LE01. All major credit cards and PayPal are accepted.