Building Connections

Empowered and connected people are the key to a collaborative, happy and successful company culture, according to Chaucer’s Head of Insurance, Xamira Groves.

Joining a hundred-year-old business can be a daunting prospect. Heritage can be interpreted as something old fashioned and intransigent, but Chaucer is anything but, according to Xamira Groves, Head of Insurance. The (re)insurance firm has been on a quiet but impressive transformation from a Lloyd’s player, to a global insurance and reinsurance power house.

Supporting the company’s strategy of “Narrow and Deep”, is a new approach to data, innovation in systems and processes, enhancements to risk appetite and new faces with new ideas. One of these new faces is Xamira Groves, Head of Insurance, who joined the company in late 2021.

As Head of Insurance, Xamira arrived at Chaucer with a richly varied background, both personally and professionally. She has worked across numerous classes of business, in a wide range of roles. It’s clear she’s covered the whole spectrum of insurance and reinsurance, working in several countries on both sides of the broking and underwriting relationship. Her roles have covered all functions from running endorsements to the creation and managing of an overseas office in an emerging market, becoming a underwriter and setting up new products, new lines of insurance and coverholders.

Xamira is a truly multinational, multicultural individual; She hails originally from Colombia but grew up in France and returned to Colombia to study at university. Upon completion of her law degree, she found herself moving to the UK to spend some time working in industry, joining international brokerage Cooper Gay in the UK. In this relatively small broker’s office it was very much an ‘all hands on deck’ experience.

Whilst at Cooper Gay, Xamira had the opportunity to spend a year in the New York office, before returning to marry her English husband and move to a top-three brokerage. Being instrumental in creating terrorism coverage post-9/11 allowed her star to rise significantly and within three years she had moved to Lloyd’s syndicate, Catlin, becoming Terrorism Class Underwriter.

Eighteen years at Catlin saw her move back to Colombia to set up and run their Bogota office, have two children, survive a serious illness, and return to London to take up the reins of a new Title insurance proposition. Eventually, she integrated a coverholder from pre-purchase to completion of the M&A.

Xamira believes this diversity of activity along with her Latin spirit, has given her deep reserves of resilience, passion and adaptability. It has helped her in creating an outward-looking and global culture at Chaucer. It’s clear that value-driven leadership, innovative ideas and empowering her team are important to Xamira, and they are the cornerstones of her plan to grow the business.

“Chaucer is a business of enormous potential."

"It’s dynamic and energetic, but we are not yet where we could be in terms of what a multi-platform, multi-office and global business could look like. Clients and brokers know we have expertise, they know we have the capability of responding, adapting and delivering optimised solutions. But there are lots of things which can be changed to maximise this enormous potential. We’ve also got a really great culture in terms of collaboration and being transparent. Over time we need to encourage our people to be even more ambitious problem solvers, commercial, global and even more outward-looking.”

This is what attracted Xamira to the business, the possibilities and the scope for growth. She is excited to help take the company through its next phase; “I could see how I could influence, contribute and add value.”

It’s also evident that finding solutions is one of her key skills, not just based on her interesting and diverse career, but her attitude:

"My brain doesn’t read problems. It reads, ‘here is a situation, what is it we need to do to fix it? Let’s create an action list and give ourselves a deadline'."

"I ask everybody to have the ability to deal with the daily frustrations and then transcend - seeing matters at a higher, macro level. If you have that ability to distance yourself and think more broadly, you can often see that it is not a problem, but rather an opportunity that just needs further exploration.”

I ask her how she wants to make this change in approach happen. “You need to play to people's best intentions and abilities and gradually over time, awaken them, for want of a better word. So, it starts with me, leading by example. Then this attitude becomes infectious and suddenly it’s a snowball.”

As part of this strategy, Xamira has instigated a monthly informal catch-up in the office for all staff. The intention is to get together and encourage different conversations with new colleagues; cross roles, cross ages and experience, between departments. Specifically, ‘no barriers’. “Let’s have a good time, then any fears and coldness disappear, and the conversation really gets going. When our people start feeling happy and proud of themselves and realise all that we achieve, they will go out into the market to sell themselves and Chaucer.”

We discuss that smaller companies have scope to grow and change unlike large global corporations, where often everything is fixed already, or, takes many years of iterations and sign-off. As someone who has worked at corporations during mergers and acquisitions, she is delighted to now be working somewhere smaller, where everybody matters and real change is immediately possible.