Q&A with PLUS1 Award Winner - Aruno Rajaratnam
On Thursday November 6, 2014, at the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) International Conference in Las Vegas, the PLUS1 Award will be conferred on my good friend, Aruno Rajaratnam. The PLUS1 Award is presented annually to a person “whose efforts have contributed substantially to the advancement and image of the professional liability industry.” I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Aruno, one of the true legends of our industry. Aruno, who is now with the Ince & Co. law firm in Singapore, has been a trailblazer and a leader in the professional liability insurance industry for nearly four decades. She has the distinction of having placed the first D&O insurance policy in Asia, and during her long and illustrious career she has served as an in-house claims manager, a loss adjuster, a specialist broker, a reinsurer, an underwriter and now as an Insurance / reinsurance lawyer. She has also been a mentor and a friend to an entire generation of industry professionals.
You have had a long and storied career in the professional liability insurance industry. How did you first wind up in the industry?
I need to tell you a little background story first to set the scenario on my career. I was born and brought up in a tiny village in North Malaysia. My parents were immigrants from the old Ceylon and we are called Ceylonese Tamils as a race. We are a minority race in Malaysia and in Singapore too. It was literally the norm for every Ceylonese Tamil child to be brought up to aspire to be a lawyer, doctor, accountant, engineer or a teacher if you are a female. I started dreaming about being a lawyer though I never met one in my village or the country! I then met an American Peace Corp Teacher, Richard Johannessen, from Oregon, USA in my final year in school. He became my mentor (still is my mentor) and opened my eyes to a whole world outside my village and school. He convinced me that I was smart and had talent and to look far. That is how I went to Law School in Singapore. When I completed law school and was admitted to practise as an advocate and solicitor in Singapore in Feb 1975, I was asked to do very uninteresting legal work. Someone in my law firm told me about a new Insurance Co-Operative called NTUC Income that was looking for a trainee for their claims division. I was told 90 people turned up for the interviews. After three rounds, I got the job. When I wrote to my family in Malaysia to tell them of my new job, they had no clue as to what general insurance was and still today do not really understand what I did and still do! Even today, I am still asked to explain what I do at every family gathering we have. But that was how it all began.
During your many years in the industry, you have worked on some very interesting matters and been involved in some of the landmark developments in the expansion of the industry in Asia. What are some of the most interesting developments which you have been involved in?
After a few years of doing motor, workmens’ compensation, marine cargo and personal lines claims, I joined an international broker, Heath Langeveldt Rollins (a subsidiary of the UK C E Heaths) and had my very first experience of dealing with Medical Malpractice, Lawyers, Surveyors and Construction claims. The experience was tremendous and I started making a name for myself as a tough negotiator.