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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.

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