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Talent focus: Jessie Murdoch, Senior Catastrophe Modeller10th September 2020
With an academic background in marine biology, Jessie Murdoch has always been passionate about the natural world. So, when she realised she could channel her interest in the environment into her role as a senior catastrophe modeller, she jumped at the opportunity. We spoke to Jessie about what attracted her to Hiscox, her most eye-opening moment, and what awesome things she has achieved as part of the Bermuda Green Team.
With your background in marine biology, why did you choose the reinsurance industry?
Hiscox Re & ILS is the first reinsurance company I have worked for, and the industry was very foreign to me when I joined. I completed an Undergraduate Degree in Marine Biology and a MSc in Marine Environmental Science, so was initially interested in doing something in the environmental field. I was at a crossroads when I joined Hiscox - do I go down the academic route and start a PhD, or, do I explore another opportunity with the skills I have, to challenge myself and build a career in reinsurance?
I chose the latter, and am so happy I did. I was pleasantly surprised to discuss topics such as climate change, geographic information systems, and my fisheries research during my Hiscox job interview!
How would you explain your job as a senior catastrophe modeller to a family member or friend?
I love this question because I always get a bit of a blank stare when I explain my job as a reinsurance catastrophe modeller – firstly about reinsurance and secondly about modelling!
I describe reinsurance as coverage for insurance companies that enables them to pay out claims to their customers after a large catastrophic event (like an earthquake). The key role a cat modeller plays in this process is to use statistical models to calculate the chance of these catastrophic events happening and the damage that could be caused. Despite my explanations, most people would simply say that I have a complicated job researching hurricanes and earthquakes and that it is hard work...all of which is accurate!
What attracted you to Hiscox?
Hiscox stood out to me because there is a drive to support employees and help them develop, whether it be through courses, graduate secondments, or mentorships. There is always a conscious effort to keep people challenged and help them achieve in their career.
What keeps me here after 8 years is the incredible sense of community and fellowship throughout the company. Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, I am prouder than ever to work for a company that supports local hospitals and charities, and that encourages flexibility in work-life balance to accommodate challenging schedules and self-care.
What has been the most eye-opening moment in your role?
I joined Hiscox in 2012, which is the year that Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast US. While we learn something new from every event, I will always remember Sandy, as it was my first opportunity to learn about the many facets of the reinsurance industry.
As an example, I learned how storm surge damage is not necessarily easy to separate from wind damage in a claim, and therefore an insurance company might have to pay to cover a flood loss even when it wasn’t covered in the original policy. It was also fascinating to read about how urban exposures were impacted in Manhattan – from fine art in basements, to Brooklyn brownstones, the third-party models we use and our internal view of risks were refined with these new data points.
Furthermore, the impacts of Sandy to the reinsurance market helped me develop a better understanding of cause and effect in terms of how the diversity of our underlying portfolio impacts our claims, and consequently, how large losses impact our business plan.
Outside your day job, what’s your favourite activity you’ve taken part in at Hiscox.
Hiscox Re & ILS has an incredible community spirit. Between the diversity and inclusion groups, social events, the Hiscox Charity Foundation, and all the community work, there’s always something to get involved in.
My favourite activity outside my day job has been being a part of the Hiscox Bermuda Green Team, whose goal is to make positive environmental changes across our Bermuda office and in the community. It has been so much fun doing beach cleanups, coral reef surveys, linking with local NGO's, and organising lunch and learns. Even trash audits can be fun when you’ve got a great crew around you!
It's exciting to see the evolution of the team and the initiatives we take part in and encouraging to see Green Teams being organised in other Hiscox offices. Due to our great success, our remit also continues to grow, as we now contribute to carbon reporting and we also had to report on ESG initiatives to insurers. I’m a passionate believer that the insurance sector has a significant role to play in global climate policy, so it's extremely rewarding to see how Hiscox is taking a strong stance on ESG issues.
What excites you the most about your job and your future at Hiscox?
Cat modelling is a fantastic career path because it is always evolving and there are constantly new challenges. I love that every day is different and I never know what new event, technology, or underwriting product will come along to create a new opportunity. This year, I've already had to dive into terrorism, wildfires, silent cyber, and Caribbean earthquakes!
One of our team’s greatest strengths is that we live our #oneteam vision by constantly sharing ideas and solutions across Hiscox Re & ILS. We always have the opportunity to expand our skills and research capabilities to keep up with our ever-evolving industry. Whatever comes our way, we are up to the challenge!
What’s your favourite saying or motto?
I try to remember the saying, "measure twice, cut once; measure once, cut twice". Always take the time to calculate and think before following through, or you will have to repeat your work.