As an industry that works on relationships and face-to-face interaction, building new partnerships during lockdown can be tricky. That’s why we wanted to introduce you to some of the WCL leadership team in our new series, ‘People behind the tech’. First up, WCL Managing Director, James Willison.
Name: James Willison
Job title: Managing Director
1. Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
Over the years, I have built up a wealth of experience that certainly has been varied and slightly random but has led me to be where I am today.
After completing my law and accountancy degree at Newcastle university, my first day as a graduate trainee for the Rank Organisation saw me as a Redcoat at Butlins! While a career in singing and dancing was obviously not meant to be, I developed some key skills that have turned out to be quite useful for working in the insurance and reinsurance sectors – for example, interacting with, hosting and presenting in front of large audience.
Following a number of positions with the Rank Organisation, I worked for the Legal Aid Board, with responsibility for ensuring regional teams of auditors all audited solicitors consistently across the country.
In 2000 I started work for a Managing Consultancy firm specialising in the London Insurance market – I spent a number of years on a significant change programme focusing on achieving contract certainty, in response to the FSA’s challenge to end the “Deal Now Detail Later culture” in the London Market.
I joined WCL in 2006 when it was known as Web Connectivity Limited. In my 15 years as Managing Director with WCL, the company has evolved from having 6 clients in London to over 80 clients globally and is recognised as a driving force in the implementation of industry standards into the global re/insurance market. Now, under the ownership of US technology firm Zywave, WCL is about to enter its next stage of evolution as a technology company.
2. What is an average day in the life of a Managing Director?
In my role, there is no such thing as a typical day. As Managing Director, I am consistently at the heart of the action, which is an extremely rewarding and meaningful place to be on a daily basis.
The way I would describe my time at work would fall into a number of main areas. The first is business development – I am tasked with finding new opportunities and spend a lot of time building relationships in the market. Second is managing our current clients and team, three is strategic direction and four is general company-related activities.
Since our acquisition, I will be spending a lot of time collaborating and finding opportunities with the senior leadership at Zywave to expand WCL’s offering in the market.
“I enjoy meeting or talking to new people”
3. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
I would say interacting with people and building those long-lasting business relationships with colleagues and customers – I enjoy meeting or talking to new people. I have certainly missed the face-to-face element of doing business in our market as a result of the global pandemic and the lockdowns. While the shift to remote working has been relatively seamless, thanks to video conferencing, technology and the ability to trade digitally, people still value the face-to-face element.
4. Which areas for developing technology do you see as the most important for your business and industry?
The buzz word this year in the tech space will be “connectivity” and the main themes will be data, and the seamless integration of that data.
In its Blueprint Two initiative, Lloyd’s of London has set out a decisive and realistic approach to achieving digital trading in the market. Its aim is to allow the rapid flow of data through the marketplace and this will be achieved via the use of application programming interfaces (API) and an interconnected ecosystem of insurance technology partners. APIs are at the heart of every digital strategy and are the building blocks of interconnected ecosystems.
At WCL, our mission as a company has always been to speed up the adoption of new technology to support improved business processes in the industry in order to fully embrace digital trading. I think 2021 will be a turning point for the market and APIs, structured data, connectivity and integration will all be key elements of that.
“Doing anything first in a market is a challenge and requires a significant element of trust between all parties”
5. What is your proudest moment in work or your greatest achievement in your career and why?
Over 10 years ago WCL implemented the very first peer to peer electronic accounting relationships in the London market. Doing anything first in a market is a challenge and requires a significant element of trust between all parties. It is great to see the number of peer to peer electronic accounting in the London market today and the volumes are increasing all the time.
6. Following the acquisition by Zywave what are you most excited about / opportunities to explore.
We are delighted with the partnership with Zywave. They are a leading tech provider in the US and in the UK, which complements our stronghold as a messaging platform provider in the London and international insurance markets.
Next steps for WCL are to leverage the Zywave infrastructure to grow and scale in the US. We are currently a 25-person company servicing 80 clients in 11 countries and WCL process more ACORD GRLC messaging that any other business. Our primary objective has been servicing our clients and we are now looking to accelerate the growth of the business. Our partnership with Zywave gives us the opportunity to look for new opportunities and to quickly scale them up.
We will also support Zywave in growing its carrier client base. 2020 proved to be a milestone year for WCL and looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, we are excited about transforming the insurance industry with our new partnership with Zywave