Q and A with underwriting manager Macella Wan

30 Apr 2021

Macella tells us about her career to date, what she enjoys about being an underwriter and her pooch Pablo

What is your role at Harbour Underwriting?

I am the underwriting manager for Harbour Underwriting. We review submissions for dispute insurance cover for commercial disputes, offering insurance that mitigates exposure to litigation costs. Our insurance is often tailored to the needs of each dispute, so I will liaise with insurance brokers and solicitors to prepare bespoke policies that fit the needs of the cases that fall within our appetite and track them until the conclusion of the dispute.

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

Before joining Harbour Underwriting, I was an associate at Kennedys in Manchester in their commercial litigation department. I had been running cases similar to those we are being approached for dispute insurance cover here at Harbour. These would typically be banking disputes, professional negligence, breach of contract, shareholder disputes, etc.

What prompted you to leave the legal profession and become an underwriter?

While I am not working in private practice anymore, I still consider my work to be closely related to commercial litigation. It draws on my experience from over 10 years in private practice.

What do you most enjoy about being an underwriter?

I enjoy reviewing the cases that are presented to us. I would not have the opportunity to see the volume and variety of cases that I do if I was working in private practice, where more time would be spent managing a smaller portfolio of cases to trial.

Tell us about some of the most memorable cases you have worked on?

A lot of the cases we see are from specialist firms supported by leading counsel – the standard is incredibly high. We have a number of class actions, including claims for breach of GDPR and anti-competition cases. The more memorable ones are allegations that involve international corporations that are household names.

What are your ambitions?

I believe there is huge potential for dispute insurance, and we are seeing growing interest from brokers and solicitors for our products. In the medium term, I expect HUL to become the first port of call for brokers when their clients have a dispute, whether that means they are bringing a claim or defending one. Our growing team will be ready and on hand to help.

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

I have had the privilege of working alongside several highly intelligent and impressively capable lawyers throughout my career, and it would be unfair to credit just one of them for what I know today. Possibly the most frequent piece of advice that I try to apply to our underwriting is to look at the bigger picture, particularly when we are dealing with hugely complicated disputes, often involving convoluted histories. So, it’s most helpful to keep an eye on what we are trying to achieve.

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?

Patience and perseverance are admirable qualities for any job but particularly useful in any work involving legal disputes. The more we know about the different types of disputes, how they are run, common strategies and pitfalls, the more we will be able to judge what would make them succeed.

What do you most enjoy doing outside of work?

Pre-pandemic, I loved travelling. However, not being able to travel has meant I could devote more time to my pooch, Pablo, who would probably not mind if I travelled a bit more. 

What is your guilty pleasure?

Skiing. Followed by lots of French bread.

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