Q and A with Susie Kirkpatrick, Operations Manager

12 Feb 2024

Susie tells us about her international upbringing, what inspired her to join the insurance industry and her love of fast cars

What is your role at Harbour Underwriting?

I am an operations manager.

Can you briefly outline your career before you joined Harbour Underwriting?

Prior to joining Harbour Underwriting, I accumulated extensive experience in the insurance industry. For many years, I served as a hull and machinery placing broker for Willis, specialising in the Lloyd’s market. My role involved working closely with underwriters, establishing relationships with shipowners in southern Europe, and conducting onsite visits to ships in Greece and Turkey.

Before my time at Willis, I held positions in the marine market, working for various companies and syndicates within Lloyd’s of London. I undertook underwriting responsibilities for marine insurance with a Danish company and later with a large American firm. Unfortunately, the latter discontinued hull and machinery insurance, leading me to oversee the runoff of associated risks.

These experiences have equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of the industry, and I am excited to bring my expertise to the team at Harbour Underwriting.

What prompted you to go into the insurance industry? 

My journey into the insurance industry was influenced by my father, a seasoned marine hull underwriter who ran his own agency in the City. Despite initially aspiring to be an actress, practical considerations led me to recognise the stability and business potential within insurance.

Inspired by my father’s entrepreneurial spirit, I decided to follow in his footsteps. At the age of 18, I secured a role as an insurance clerk for The Yasuda Fire and Marine. This early exposure ignited my passion for the business side of insurance, where risk assessment and financial acumen converge.

Now, as a part of Harbour Underwriting, I leverage my background and enthusiasm to contribute to the dynamic world of insurance business with a focus on strategic planning and client relationships.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

I’m currently relishing the experience of delving into a completely new class of business, marking my first venture beyond the marine domain. Dispute insurance has proven to be both diverse and fascinating, keeping me engaged and continually learning. The ever-changing landscape ensures that each day brings new challenges, so the role is consistently fresh and exciting.

Tell us about some of the most memorable events in your current career

My career has provided some unforgettable moments, from business trips to Athens, where I engaged with shipowners and enjoyed lunches by the marina in Piraeus, to the surreal experience of being aboard a very large crude carrier (VLCC) during a fire drill. These vessels contain around two million barrels of oil, emphasising the importance of safety measures.

Another highlight was a trip to Scotland accompanying one of my underwriters to watch his horse race for the day (and it won!). It all might sound as glamorous as being an actress!

What are your ambitions in your current role?

My aspirations in my current role revolve around seeing the business thrive and maintain its status as a market leader. I aim to be the best version of myself, contributing to the growth of the company by closely collaborating with my colleagues. Gaining comprehensive knowledge within the dispute insurance market is a key goal, enabling me to support and foster the expansion of our business.

Who has been the most influential person in your career and how have they helped you?

The most influential person in my career has undoubtedly been my father. Beyond simply providing me a job in the insurance industry, he gave me the encouragement to explore this field. Witnessing his dedication and hard work, particularly in achieving his goals of owning an underwriting agency within the shipping industry, has been a guiding force in my own professional journey.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do? What qualities do they need?

My advice is simple but powerful: never give up. Continuously strive for personal and professional growth, always aiming to be the best version of yourself. The ability to work effectively in a team is vital, and approaching each day with a mindset of constant learning is key. Remember, your colleagues are your teammates, so let’s make sure we win together.

What do you most enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work, you can find me walking our two French Bulldogs on the beach, taking advantage of living just a mile from the sea – even if it can be a bit chilly and windy in Essex. Whenever possible, I love indulging my passion for travel, stemming from my diverse background of being born in South Africa, living in Hong Kong, and attending school in Belgium for a few years.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I confess to being a bit of a petrol head – cars, the faster, the better. Before the era of Covid-19, I even dabbled in trading cars. Currently, our driveway (and storage yard) is home to several project cars, making it a haven for this self-professed car enthusiast.

Media room

Sign up to receive the latest news, opinions and event information