Q&A: Get to know our new hire, CUO Chris McQuilkin

April 2024

Meet American Specialty CUO Chris McQuilkin

Chris McQuilkin is joining the American Specialty team as the Chief Underwriting Officer. We got a chance to sit down with him and ask him a few questions to get to know him better.


1. We are excited to have you on the team! What brought you to American Specialty?
The quality of the people, the strength of the brand, and the opportunity to participate in a growing organization.


2. How do you hope to impact American Specialty in the next 5 years?

I hope to support further growth in our underwriting expertise and business acumen through a commitment to continuous learning, expanded technology support, effective process design and transparent communication. I want to help us strengthen our portfolio management, supporting sustainable profitable growth for us and our carrier partners. I am excited about the opportunity to encourage and support collaborative teams with a critical focus on spending the right time and energy on the right issues.


3. How did you get into the world of insurance and underwriting?

I was focused on becoming an options trader. I received my degree in finance with specialization in equity and commodity trading. There was a confluence of unique timing late in my college career with a particular market downturn that dried up those types of opportunities in investment banking.

I was exposed to underwriting through recruiting in college. That led to a unique opportunity to interview for a national account underwriting trainee role, focused on Fortune 500 type clients. It appealed to me be because of the variety, pace of change and analytical problem solving it took. I was also exposed to the world of insurance from a family perspective as well. My mother was a complex claims adjuster for an E&S liability insurance company.


4. How do you feel that your educational and professional background prepares you for your new role?

I’ve had a wide variety of underwriting responsibilities and leadership opportunities over my career that uniquely qualify and prepare me to support our teams and help move us forward to capitalize on the opportunities we have in front of us.


5. Why would you recommend someone get into underwriting?

There’s something new or different everyday so there are always new things to learn. You could call it a life learning career. There will always be unique opportunities to influence results of both your clients and the business community at large. You are encouraged and literally pulled to form strong, collaborative bonds with an extensive group of teammates to be successful. And who doesn’t love winning as a TEAM?


6. What are current trends in the industry that you are keeping an eye on?

There is always a short-list…

    • Impact of social cost inflation
    • Volatility of CAT risk due to climactic changes
    • Adverse litigation trends
    • Opportunities for staff development, new methods of learning
    • Wide ranging impacts of technology and data on our business
    • Artificial intelligence


7. Is there any content that you consume that drives or inspires you?

I read voraciously. The book, Who Moved My Cheese, always sticks with me. It is about embracing change and managing it. I’m also a big Michael Lewis book fan. I try to attend prevailing thought leader’s webinar discussions when they’re available. I listen to quite a few podcasts if I’m driving around including two great insurance podcasts that I regularly listen to and learn from. One is called Insurance Talk, and one is called IN-the-Know.

There’s a Japanese proverb that I saw that inspires me that says, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” It really means, there’s so much learning that happens within groups and with teams and you can make a better decision if you harness the strength of the team. The most powerful things that have propelled me are about team success and how you overcome a unique obstacle as a group effort with everyone playing a unique role.


8. What is your biggest piece of advice to someone starting out in the insurance industry?

It’s a long journey. You are starting a life learning career, and you will learn thing from a variety of different people and roles that will continuously impact the way you think and perform in the job.


9. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Travel! Now that I am an empty nester, my wife and I enjoy trying to do as much traveling as we can. My goal is to hit 50 states before I’m 60 and we are three states away. I also want to hit 25 or 30 countries by 65. We have a lot of traveling ahead of us.

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