After officially retiring from the profession nearly 20years ago, Miles Emblin returned as an insurance expert witness.The broking legend tells Louise Meeson why his career has still got a few miles in it yet.
From placing risks for swashbuckling movie starErrol Flynn, to running his own brokerage and evolving into an insurance expert witness, which has resulted in him giving evidence in a number ofhigh-profile court cases, founded member of theBritish Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba), MilesEmblin, has enjoyed a long and varied career.
Despite retiring from his brokerage in 1999, he onlyfinally stepped away from the profession in 2009.However, his second career as an expert witness,mediator, arbitrator and determiner, which kicked offnearly twenty years ago – the year after his first official ‘retirement’ took place – continues to go fromstrength to strength. In fact, Mr Emblin recently tookinstructions on his 150th case.
He shows no signs of slowing down after more thanhalf a century in the business and, in fact, his witnesswork is keeping him busier than ever and his enthusiasm, for his work is infectious. Referring to his expert witness role, Mr Emblin explains: “I find itfascinating because, as well as the interesting cases Iget involved in, invariable I know – or I would haveknown at some time – people within the organisationsthat I am now commenting on. For example, withone well-known firm of brokers, I have acted both ontheir side and the opposing side and have known twoof their chairmen. Although, there was obviously noconflict of interests or anything like that, it’s a smallmarket so you can’t help but know people.
“That’s one of the problems with recruiting insuranceexpert witnesses because by and large they are alltrading with each other. They are doing a full-timejob anyway, so wouldn’t have the time and, secondly,if they produced an expert witness report, chancesare they would know the party involved. The guythey are writing about could underwrite their reinsurances for example. This is why it’s very difficult tofind an expert who hasn’t got a conflict. In my case,I’m ok because I’ve retired.”
New career path
Mr Emblin’s second career started in about 2000, theyear after he stepped down from his brokerage, afterBiba drafted him in to help deal with a solicitor’s enquiry. “I started a whole new career, which is not whatI had intended at all as I had only just retired. But Igot a taste for it and I love it,” he adds.
Explaining why and when the services of an insurance expert witness might be called for, Mr Emblinexplains: “If litigation proceeds then the case goes tothe courts and the judge will make a court order asappropriate. If it’s a specialised field, such as insurance, the judge will need some assistance and willallow for an expert witness for both sides or alternatively a single joint expert.”
The witnesses then file their reports and the judgewill then call for a meeting of the experts so they cancome together to précis the two documents – highlighting the points of agreement and disagreement.That report forms part of the court case and if itproceeds both parties will be required to appear inthe witness box and be cross-examined on it.
Although understandably tight-lipped about thecases he has worked on over the years, Mr Emblin,who specialises in the areas of fraud, negligence andrecklessness within the disciples of assurance, insurance and reinsurance, admits that it has been something of an eye-opener.
He has worked on civil cases involving employers’liability, professional liability, property, contingency,marine hulls and cargo, and jewellers’ block policies.Although he has not been involved in many insurance criminal cases, with a glint in his eye, Mr Emblin divulges that he has worked on a case in whichthe accused got “banged up” and another in whichthe charge was perjury, but he keeps any furtherdetails firmly under wraps.
As well as his expert witness work in court, MrEmblin also lends his expertise in mediations as wellas taking part in some arbitrations and expert determinations, which means his case load remains varied.“I really do enjoy what I do,” he adds. “I got into it byaccident but I have found that I really enjoy it. I likeworking under pressure anyway.
“It’s like a drug. It stimulates my brain. What I like isat the end of a case I can pack up and put my feet up,but a week is about as long as I can handle. I getbored easily.” Mr Emblin has certainly kept himselfbusy over the years.
He started his insurance career at Lloyd’s in 1956 andlike many of his peers he got into it by accident. “Theonly reason I started working for the firm was because they had offices in Billiter Street, which wasabout 100 yards away from Fenchurch Street station,where I commuted in to. I thought ‘that lookshandy’,” he admits.
Mr Emblin began in the overseas department, whichdeveloped into the North America department, for afirm that specialised in bullion and jewellers’ block.He was involved in broking many rather unique risksincluding those for some celebrity clients.
“We placed a lot of interesting cases at the time,” MrEmblin comments. “I did something for Errol Flynn.He had a house in Jamaica and we got an enquiryfrom one of our connections in New York aboutwhether we could place it. We then had a follow-upconcerning Errol Flynn’s yacht, which was his prideand joy. “I was charged with trying to get this sortedout. I took it to the lead market on yachts in the roomat Lloyd’s and asked ‘would you be kind enough togive me some terms for this risk?’ The gentlemantook a look at it and with a twinkle in his eye, hefolded up the papers and handed them back to meand said, and I quote, ‘I don’t write brothels East ofSuez dear’. Errol Flynn was quite famous, as you arewell aware, as a bit of a womaniser.”
Following his time at Lloyd’s, Mr Emblin worked as acompany insurance market inspector for a time before branching out on his own, setting up Miles Emblin Company in 1972. He explains that the businesshad a general portfolio but specialised in overseascargo.
Eventually, the opportunity arose to merge thebrokerage with another two businesses. Mr Emblinexplains: “They made me group chairman and compliance officer for a time and then I bowed out thinking that would do me nicely. It took me almost twoyears to see to the run-off of my private portfolio.”
Alongside his day-to-day job, Mr Emblin has beenheavily involved with Biba over the years, serving asa north London committee member from 1978 andlater holding the posts of regional deputy chairmanand chairman. Subsequently, he became a memberof Biba’s national council and finance and generalpurposes committee as well as instigating and negotiating a number of national membership productsand sitting on the general insurance brokers’ committee for three years from 1996.
A founding member of Biba, he firmly believes thatthe trade association’s work is vital to the brokingcommunity. “Biba does a lot of work behind thescenes that doesn’t get publicised,” he comments.
His current role as an expert witness has given MrEmblin a unique perspective on the emerging trendsand dangers for those in the profession In agreementwith many others in the market, he points out thatfraud is “very much under the spotlight” as well ashighlighting the risk that brokers face from the significant rise in negligence claims.
Caught in the middle
He says: “Brokers are at risk if clients’ claims are rejected. If the insurer can demonstrate that he’s got astrong case then usually it will be the broker that willbe looked at. On one side you’ve got the insured, onthe other side the insurer, and if they can’t agree ona settlement then it’s the broker that’s the meat in thesandwich.”
Mr Emblin warns that brokers could potentially be inthe firing line from both sides if difficulties occur.“The public is more litigious due to the economicclimate and there are more opportunities to provefraud these days because of electronic storage ofinformation. Claims are also being treated moreharshly by insurers than they used to be, it’s nowmore of a case of caveat emptor ‘buyer beware’.
He continues: “While the Financial ConductAuthority has had, and is still having, an effect upondriving up professional standards generally, there isno doubt that higher standards for the insuranceintermediary market are also being set as cases cometo court, therefore making the intermediary vulnerable to legal attack when losses are not paid underarranged policies. I feel there’s a lack of privacy andrespect of confidential information, which I find worrying especially because there is so much emphasison fraud. When I started out, it was a given that theinformation on an insurance contract was private andconfidential. It’s an issue that intermediaries mustaddress, otherwise they could face tough reprisals,”he adds. “Conditional selling also gets my goat. I don’thave a problem with cross-selling at all,” but says hefinds it galling that brokers will give the client a cheapprice on a product on the condition that they will takeout another policy, such as payment protectioninsurance.
“There’s so much pressure from telesales. I think it’sterrible to try to pressurise people into buying thingsthat they don’t want or need. It doesn’t help theimage of the profession,” he adds. However, all in allMr Emblin says he is proud of the insurance business,pointing out that it has “been very kind to him.”
Although he has no plans to slow down, Mr Emblinsays that when he’s not busy swotting up on the latestcase he’s involved in or researching and preparinghis latest expert witness report, he likes nothingbetter than watching cricket at Lord’s. Having ahundred and fifty cases under his belt, he has nowcompleted a century all of his own and judging by hisboundless enthusiasm, there will be plenty more runsto come.
Biography – Miles Emblin
Miles Emblin began his broking career when hejoined a firm of Lloyd’s brokers in 1956, which specialised in specie business. He started off in the overseas department, which soon became the Americandepartment. Having made up his mind that he wanted to start hisown brokerage, Miles became an insurance company agency inspector in 1964, a position that he held forthe next seven years in order to gain a more variedprofessional experience. He eventually realised hisambition, setting up his own London market brokerage, Miles Emblin Company, in 1973, specialising ininternational cargo business. The brokerage mergedwith two other companies in 1996 and Miles retiredfrom business in 1999 but has since held several otherpositions as a non-executive director, and is currentlyretained as a consultant.
He was a founder member of the British InsuranceBrokers’ Association (Biba), serving on various committees between 1978 and 1999 and started his second career as an expert witness in 2000 after Bibaasked for his assistance in dealing with a solicitor’senquiry.
As a fully trained expert witness, Miles is a member ofthe Academy of Experts, the Institute of Public LossAssessors and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
More details can be found on his website