Executive Spotlight: Pat Regan

Back to Basics: How QBE is Staging a Comeback in North America

In this Q&A, QBE Group’s CEO says underwriting talent will drive organic growth, but harnessing data and technology remains a challenge.
By: | May 23, 2018 • 5 min read

QBE, like many top-tier insurers, has grown largely through acquisition. While that strategy has helped the company establish footholds in markets around the globe, it’s also led to various businesses operating parallel to one another, rather than truly working together.


“The business I inherited is very different from what my predecessor inherited five years ago,” said newly-minted CEO Pat Regan. “The separate businesses were operating the way they had been pre-acquisition. We want to integrate our operations so we’re recognizable as a unified QBE no matter where we are in the world.”

Since taking the helm as CEO of QBE Group in January after a rough 2017, Regan has lead the company’s strategy of simplification, which entailed divesting some smaller business units in the Asia market and exiting Latin America altogether, while reshaping the company as an integrated specialist insurer in the North American market.

“North America has been the home for our core programs for the past few years, which include crop, programs, and commercial specialty along with commercial P&C. Altogether, they represent a $5 billion business in North America. We’re especially focused on growing our specialty business for the middle market, which we’ve built up to almost a $1 billion business over the past five years,” Regan said.

Regan sat down with R&I to discuss his plans for streamlining the company and growing its North American specialty arm — and the challenges that lie in his path.

R&I: How do you plan to grow the specialty business in North America?

Pat Regan: Our core businesses have previously been run very separately, but many clients need coverages that overlap, so we’re integrating those units to better leverage our underwriting talent and data, and ultimately better service claims.

It’s not just about doing the basics, but doing them brilliantly.

We’ve hired talented teams of underwriters with expertise in specialty lines, whether that’s D&O, aviation, marine, etc., and the business comes with them. We’ve grown organically on the back of strong underwriting talent, and that’s our growth strategy going forward. We want to continue to be magnet for talent.


The other piece of that is investing in innovation. Technology is changing the way we do business, and we have to harness all of the data and tools that are out there to support and augment what our underwriters do.

Streamlining internally can also help us achieve a more competitive expense ratio, which we need to improve in order to thrive in this market. It’s a very competitive market, so we have to be good at what we’re doing. Ultimately, I want our hallmark to be that were as good as we possibly can be in what we call the “brilliant basics.”

R&I: What are the brilliant basics?

PR: Underwriting, pricing and claims. We have to be better at understanding and accurately pricing risks and more thoughtful about selecting which ones we want to take on our portfolio. After heavy natural catastrophe losses in 2017 and underwhelming performances in some emerging markets, along with continuing soft market conditions, it’s more important than ever to maintain our underwriting discipline and build long-lasting relationship with our clients and broker partners.

Pat Regan, CEO, QBE Group

To do that, we have to be the best. I’m going to be a zealot on this. It’s not just about doing the basics, but doing them brilliantly. And the definition of “brilliant” will change every day, because our world is evolving so quickly.

R&I: How does QBE invest in innovation and stay up to speed with new tech?

PR: None of us can innovate as fast as we’d like to. It’s just the nature of being a pre-existing, highly regulated insurance company. But we do have a few wheels in motion.

We are investing in some Insurtech startups. We launched QBE Ventures, our venture capital arm, about a year, through which we’re making small investments or buying minority stakes in different tech companies. We’re dipping our toe in. There are lots of ideas out there, and we want to make sure we have a full view of what’s going on. Usually they’ll take our data to improve their own processes, and then we’ll try to adopt their processes to improve our workflows.

Ultimately, we all have to relearn how we do our jobs in this new environment. We have to challenge the way we do things. There are tons of opportunities, but we can’t do it all ourselves – hence the need for investment in partnerships.

We have a separate internal arm called QBE Labs, where we’re experimenting with lots of different ideas and innovations, but keeping it separate from the mothership.

Over the last few years, we’ve invested a lot of money into drone technology and data science, which we’ve been applying heavily to our crop business. If you’re providing crop insurance, you try to pick farmers who’ve had consistently good yields, and there’s tons of data behind that. We’re using drones a lot to survey farms with huge acreage.

R&I: Where can digitization and Insurtech solutions bring the most value for the industry?

PR: As an industry, we’re still so manual, so the biggest benefit is in digitizing our processes. Take for example the exchange of information between client, broker and carrier. Everything is on paper. Collecting that data digitally would be a boon for productivity and could cut potential down on human error.

Data can also provide a more granular view of risk and help underwriters price risk more accurately. Machine learning algorithms could help us collect and categorize information more efficiently.

Again, this would augment what our underwriters do, not replace them.


The biggest area of early wins has been in claims. We can apply predictive analytics to help detect fraud and direct the right level of resources and expertise where it’s needed.

Ultimately, we all have to relearn how we do our jobs in this new environment. We have to challenge the way we do things. There are tons of opportunities, but we can’t do it all ourselves – hence the need for investment in partnerships.

R&I: As CEO of a global company, you do a lot of traveling. What’s your favorite city?

PR: I like them all — Sydney, Hong Kong, London, Paris, New York, Singapore — they all have their own flavor. I never imagined I’d get to do a job that lets me travel the world. For more than a decade now, I’ve taken my family to Santa Monica, California every year, so I am partial to California.

The biggest challenge with so much travel is not knowing what the weather will be. I never seem to have a coat when I need one. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]