Ranald Munro is a man of many titles; general counsel and company secretary for the Chubb Insurance Company of Europe are the ones he uses most often, but he is also the company’s head of external affairs and carries the US corporate title of vice-president. Outside the office he becomes Lieutenant-Colonel Munro, an officer in the Territorial Army’s (TA) Parachute Regiment, and visits Bristol regularly to carry out his duties as commanding officer for the university Officer Training Corps.
Given all these roles, it might seem surprising that Munro is head of a legal department of just six. He takes care of the more mainstream legal affairs with the assistance of another in-house solicitor, while four other lawyers look after specialised underwriting matters. From the banks of the Thames near Tower Bridge, they oversee the legal work for the European operation of US parent the Chubb Corporation.
Chubb Insurance has three main service lines: speciality insurance, covering executive protection, kidnap and ransom and the like; personal insurance, catering for high-net-worth individuals, such as company directors; and professional insurance, including solicitors’ professional indemnity in the UK through a broker.
The four underwriting counsel, who are based across the UK and France, are embedded in the business and look after issues such as policy wording. The positions were created shortly after Munro became general counsel nearly four years ago.
“We were so busy at the corporate level doing corporate things – the umbrella stuff that goes across all businesses – that we didn’t have enough people at the coalface,” says Munro.
He coordinates the work of the underwriting counsel, ensuring that they come in within budget. Munro himself has a direct reporting line to Chubb Europe’s president and chief executive officer Chris Giles, in addition to a dotted reporting line to Joanne Bober, general counsel for the Chubb Corporation in the US.
He became general counsel for Chubb Europe after two years as counsel for the UK and Ireland, having spent the previous nine years in-house at International Computers (now Fujitsu) and L’Oréal UK. But Munro’s career began as a senior crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, after being called to the bar in 1986.
When he first went in-house, Munro took the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test because requirements then were generally for solicitors rather than barristers. With this now less of an issue, he says his advocacy and persuasion skills come in useful – as indeed do the skills he has developed serving in the TA. “I find [the TA] hugely beneficial, not just from the business point of view, but also in terms of leadership, man management, the functional aspects of leadership, being able to assess facts, sort out what is relevant and what isn’t relevant. Sometimes a plan now is better than a perfect plan tomorrow, and you have to then come up with how you’re going to execute that plan, how you’re going to make that plan work,” he says.
Munro instructs a number of firms, including Lovells for corporate, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert and Denton Wilde Sapte (which advised on the implementation of the data protection directive across Europe) for insurance-related and other matters, Field Fisher Waterhouse (which he instructed last year on the move to the new headquarters) and Coventry firm Varley Hibbs for commercial property, and Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for employment. However, he is happy to go elsewhere if a preferred supplier is unavailable.
“How we use outside firms and what we use them for is very flexible,” says Munro. “Generally, we’d outsource litigation and property because it’s just too time-consuming, but otherwise we’ll go for expertise.”
Munro also has some stern words about billing. “I need to track my budget,” he says. “Law firms need to get better at understanding that. When we ask for the bill we want to pay the bill. I want to pay it now, not in a year or 18 months’ time.”
Part of the legal department’s current work is the creation of new terms of engagement, which will be concerned partially with how billing is agreed.
Costs, as for any large company, are important for Chubb, but Munro says increasing legislation is one of his main concerns. As head of external affairs for Chubb Europe he spends time in Brussels working with regulators and insurance associations to influence some of the masses of new regulations coming in.
One such piece of legislation is the implementation of the insurance mediation directive from Europe. The directive will regulate and control the work of intermediaries and brokers, and comes into force in the UK in January 2005. It will affect Chubb quite heavily, as the company does very little direct business, preferring to trade through brokers.
Munro also sees a shift in the way insurers view their finances, away from the traditional route of investing premiums. “There’s a move towards risk-based capital and international accounting standards,” he says. “Things will get much more transparent, and there’ll be a tougher environment from that point of view, which is good for players like us. I think we have the people and the structures and the integrity and the intent to actually flourish in those markets.”
According to Munro, the dual posts of head of external affairs and general counsel mesh well. He says that his need to know what new legislation is coming through is coupled with an ability to lobby on behalf of the company. Chubb’s profile in Europe is raised by his role in external affairs, and Munro can argue for the best legislation for both his company and its insureds. He also has a board role as company secretary, which allows him access to management and information about Chubb’s business plans and strategy, which he might not have otherwise.
The company is listed in Belgium and operates under licences throughout Europe. Munro is looking at obtaining licences for the 10 EU accession states.
Chubb worldwide has grown greatly in the past few decades – the European branch was opened in 1962, 80 years after the formation of the company in New York City. The Chubb Corporation floated in 1984 and is one of the top 10 publicly-traded insurance companies in the US. Further growth in the EU would add to the company’s presence in 30 countries worldwide, but Munro says that the aim is to be “pre-eminent” rather than the largest insurer globally.
“The industry’s changing,” he says. “There are more contracts, reflecting the way business is going on. In the past, the cry in the insurance market was, ‘My word is my bond and that’s what you need’. It’s a good area for lawyers right now, it’s becoming increasingly regulated and it’s becoming much more professional.”
General counsel and company secretary
Chubb Insurance Company of Europe
|Organisation||Chubb Insurance Company of Europe|
|General counsel and company secretary||Ranald Munro|
|Reporting to||President and chief executive officer of Chubb Europe Chris Giles|
|Main law firms||Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, Clyde & Co, Denton Wilde Sapte, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Lovells, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Varley Hibbs|