Rising Star James Needham Talks M&As in the Energy Space, How the Geopolitical Environment Impacts Brokering and More

James Needham of Aon shares what it’s like to broker in the traditional energy sector, how renewable energy can work in tandem with traditional energy and what 2024 holds for the space.
By: | December 12, 2023


Come see the Stars! As part of our ongoing coverage of the best brokers in the commercial insurance space, Risk & Insurance®, with the sponsorship of Philadelphia Insurance, is expanding its coverage of the Rising Stars, those brokers who represent the next wave of insurance brokering talent.

Look for these expanded profiles on the Risk & Insurance website and in your social media feeds throughout 2023.

Here’s our conversation with James Needham, senior U.S. energy casualty broker, Aon. Needham was recognized as a 2023 Power Broker in the Traditional Energy category, and as a Rising Star.

Risk & Insurance: How did you find yourself working in insurance, and specifically as a broker in the energy space?  

James Needham: I did my studies at the University of Nottingham for a law degree. I enjoyed studying the law, but I didn’t want to go into practice. I wanted to be involved in more of the decision and deal-making process.

The relationship side of insurance is a big element and was an important push for me in terms of getting into the insurance market, particularly in London and the Lloyd’s market, with the face-to-face aspect of the market.

I managed to get into the Underwriting Graduate Scheme at Aspen [where I worked] for around six years. It was a two year scheme, rotating through various lines, but I spent the majority of my time working in the energy package team, which is where I got my first introduction into the world of traditional energy.

I moved to energy liabilities, where my skill set was better suited, and found the risk element more intriguing as it requires a lot of lateral thinking. I’m really enjoying my time at Aon on the broking side and the exposure I’ve gained is amazing. The ability to work both with clients, the U.S. and the underwriters enables me to see all sides of the transaction.

R&I: What are trends the traditional energy sector needs to keep top of mind?    

JN: I’m focused in on the U.S. side, so I can’t speak for the international side, but I think some of the things that we’re seeing in the energy sector is there seems to be a slight uptick in mergers and acquisitions. M&As are certainly going to be of interest going into 2024. It’s certainly something that’s going to be of interest in terms of client base for brokers and premium into the market as well.  

I think another point is the energy transition and how we as brokers can assist clients through this with the market.

We’ve seen a lot in the press recently about the energy transition, and I’m fully aware of need new forms of energy.

I think one of the things that we must be wary of is how things can change very quickly with geopolitical issues, such as the war in Ukraine and the potential volatility coming out of the Middle East. This has shown that traditional energy, or oil and gas, still has a huge part to play in our society for years to come.

Traditional energy will continue to be needed as the world’s energy demands continue to increase globally, and there needs to be a long-term realistic approach to the transition as we move forward.

R&I: How do you keep on top of all these changes going on that impact the industry you broker in?  

JN: One the main things that we do as a market in London is to keep close. We work closely with our underwriting partners, and this gains us access to changes and updates in the sector, particularly loss activity and trends.

We also work together with our U.S. team, and this allows further access to information from the U.S. and changes and developments that they are seeing.

Keeping up-to-date with news and relevant publications is also key in staying on top of changes.

R&I: What would you say is a professional accomplishment that you are most proud of?  

JN: Making it to senior broker level and working with the large clients has been a big achievement. It has given me the chance to work on some very complex accounts that require a high level of attention and often out-of-the-box thinking.

R&I: What are you excited to see in 2024?  

JN: I have a team now that I’m managing, so I’m excited by this for next year. Taking on board that additional responsibility is certainly something that I’m really looking forward to.

Maintaining and developing the book in London is another area I’m excited for. One of the big things that my team and I take pride in is bringing business to the London market.

I’m very keen on organic growth of placements, and the more we can place in London, the better for a stronger London market and the better for the client with greater competition on pricing and terms and conditions. &

Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].