Tim Creamer, one of the founders of digitally-enabled group risk insurer Ellipse, died on Wednesday, having contracted Covid-19. Creamer spent over 10 years at Ellipse, which was sold by Munich Re to AIG at the end of 2018. He also had spells at Munich Re and Hollard Insurance. He is survived by his wife Helen and his children.
Former Ellipse CEO John Ritchie pays tribute to a close colleague and dear friend
“If you are working from home today on underwriting rules for a life company or tweaking the parameters in an automated scheme underwriting engine to enable an adviser to delight a potential new client with a report by close of business, stop for a moment and give thanks for the life and work of my friend and colleague Tim Creamer. Tim was taken from his beloved Helen and three young children on Wednesday by Covid-19. Stop and reflect because there is, in your work today, a line of continuity to Tim’s craft and innovation.
“If you worked directly with him you will, amid the shock and sorrow, no doubt also smile as you remember his eccentricities and management style. One of you will be saying ‘ he was a bloody nightmare to manage’ and another will be saying ‘he transformed my working life by allowing me to grow and develop fast’. The former is most likely a senior reinsurer and the latter will be a person in their late twenties or early thirties running a big team at one of the better insurers because they were ‘one of Tim’s‘. Many of Tim’s started on a temporary contract, learned the trade to his exacting standards and soared.
“All of you will have heard him say ‘ If you do what you have always done, you will get what you always got‘. This sums up his ceaseless quest to improve processes, and through that, extend access to cover. ‘Can we make it economic for advisers to get a meaningful amount of life and disability cover to people through micro businesses and SMEs?‘ This was not common thinking 15 years ago as reinsurers, insurers, and advisers endlessly whinged about protection gaps and the constraints of encroaching regulation. The last time we met he observed that the generation taking the reins now are simply a fair bit better, in larger numbers, than our vintage.
“To understand what drove Tim all that is needed is to look at where he came from. That was the new business department he joined as a school leaver in Durban. He rose fast through the ranks at Hollard Life, a sparky player in an innovative South African market. Working in one of the first implementations of M&G’s early rules systems he saw the transformative potential of these methods. He was then determined to get to a job where he could be involved in process design or as he put it ‘on the machine tools’. When he met and fell in love with Helen, his lovely Yorkshire nurse, the next step was clear. Go and work for a major reinsurer in London.
“When we started working together at Munich Re in 2006 there was a sense that process change was what our insurer clients were thinking about. When Tim, and other voices, clearly said that the R&D flame needed to be lit again there was resistance. Price and capacity deals had turned major reinsurers into wholesalers. If process and access work, price and margin will follow was his blunt assertion.
Being fearless and enthusiastic are admirable qualities but not always comfortable for institutions where the introverted and analytical dwell in large cohorts. Tim could be gloriously and hilariously tin-eared and undiplomatic at times. He had an evangelical ferocity that made some of his bosses, peers and reports nervous. They knew, however, that there was usually substance in his ideas and arguments.
“One of my most vivid memories is sitting at a pavement table in Koniginstrasse on a warm July evening. It had been a long day failing to persuade a room of highly sceptical Munich Re underwriting doctors, underwriters and regional CEOs that underwriting automation was the key to the future. I was drinking and Tim was talking. ‘ Why don’t we apply these rules-driven underwriting methods to group life and disability business and create an altogether better group insurer?‘ That conversation led to the business plan for Ellipse and Tim was a founding member of the leadership team.
“Tim grew from underwriter to rules development manager at Munich Re UK Life to Chief Underwriter, whole system designer and subsequently Chief of Operations at Ellipse. He transformed the inforce administration from a point where we were struggling to cope with growth to best in sector status and built complete readiness to scale. He was at times preoccupied that his CV did not compare well to the standard university degree/professional qualification template so he embarked on additional learning on finance, systems and management.
“Tim was always a sponge for new tech in his life and at work. He constantly tested and experimented with software, devices and processes. His striving to optimise his heroic commute from Cambridgeshire to Bermondsey Square SE1 always entertained. Car, private house parking place, train, tube, bus and Barclays Bike, were tested in bewildering combinations and the door to door times recorded precisely. However he did it, he would be there before 7.00 am so that he had precious family time with his young children in the evening.
“Others will write tributes that focus on Tim’s work in his community through his church, his devotion to Helen and his family, his alarming appraisal interviews, his superb singing voice and ability to figure skate. He really did do a medley of Luther Vandross hits while ice skating backwards – Ellipse team nights out were that bizarre.
“This is a surprising final thought but my defence is truth. To all of you who interviewed Tim for the big job and thought ‘this fella is a bit of a risk, he’s not your usual life insurance senior manager’, you were absolutely right. He was much more than that. Goodbye Tim, rest easy partner.”
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