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If someone called you a maverick, your reaction would epend entirely on your point of view.
A maverick is often a lone dissenter.
A person who pursues rebellious,
maybe potentially disruptive, policies
or ideas. We all know one. I am one.
Insurance being a conservative
profession, mavericks and loose
cannons are generally unwelcome
guests. The lyric of the theme song for
TV’s ‘Maverick’ says it all: “Luck is his
companion; gamblin’ is his game.”
Ian Posgate died earlier this year.
One of Lloyd’s most controversial (and
most successful) underwriters, he was
the quintessential maverick. He indeed
regarded gambling as his game.
“I was allowed to be a bookmaker
on a huge scale,” he once said.
“Autocratic. Absolutely outrageous.”
In his obituary, The Times said
Posgate “seemed to make the dreary
world of insurance sexy.”
No mean trick, that. His career was
chequered, but his influence on Lloyd’s
was significant. He was known as
‘Goldfinger,’ the man with the Midas
touch. He dealt almost exclusively in
marine, and at one point controlled a
fifth of all marine premiums at Lloyd’s.
Posgate’s most successful line was
insuring ships on the Mekong River
during the Vietnam War. After losses,
incurred primarily in the dry season,
He would double the premium (five
percent of the monthly cargo value per
became 10). Later he found out that
the river was just 30 feet wide in the
dry season, which made shooting holes
in shipping easier than when it rained,
and the river widened to three miles.
Goldfinger lived in an age when an
underwriter could place policies with
more than one syndicate. Talk about
your conflicts of interest: the lowest-risk policies were inevitably written for
friends, and those less favored often
bought the higher-risk policies. This
was the Lloyd’s way for a long time.
After Lloyd’s cleaned up its act in
the mid ’80s, Posgate joined Alexander
Howden, to work alongside Kenneth
Grob, known as the Grobfather.
In short: Howden was bought by
U.S. insurer Alexander & Alexander;
holes were revealed in the Howden
financials; Posgate was cleared of
misappropriation, but was found
to have received “gifts,” including a
valuable Pissarro painting. Yes, he took
Lloyd’s banned Posgate for life,
reduced on appeal to six months, but
would never again employ him. Nor
would anyone else. He was acquitted of
all charges, but at that point he retired
to the country and farmed cattle,
summering on the French Riviera.
They don’t make ‘em like Posgate
anymore, because Lloyd’s reformed its
tainted self to see him and his ilk off
the premises and out of the industry.
Posgate clearly wasn’t John Galt,
from Atlas Shrugged. No one is. But
Goldfinger was an original at the
waning of the age when giants stalked
the land of the insured.
Ian Posgate indirectly brought
about reform at a global institution
that sorely needed it. Not a bad
epitaph for a maverick. &
ROGER CROMBIE is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Legacy of
BY ROGER CROMBIE