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Fleur Rochester

Partner, Kennedys

Quotation Marks
PI insurers are focused on cyber, ESG and AI risks and how they might impact on claims against their clients

SJ Interview: Fleur Rochester, the new president of London FOIL

SJ Interview
SJ Interview: Fleur Rochester, the new president of London FOIL


In December, Fleur Rochester, a partner in Kennedys professional liability team, was appointed the new president of the London division of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) for 2024

The forum provides a platform to support insurance and reinsurance firms and lawyers working in the Lloyd’s Market. Solicitors Journal speaks to Fleur about her new position and the challenges ahead.

What challenges does London FOIL and the insurance market face in 2024?

The London insurance and reinsurance market has a challenging year ahead. It will need to navigate issues including the ongoing geopolitical tensions, environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, regulation and tech innovation, as well as the number of general elections worldwide that are scheduled to take place this year. London's FOIL members are helping their clients to find legal solutions to all of the problems the market faces. FOIL offers support through education, lobbying and networking.

Tell us what insurance lawyers can expect from FOIL London whilst you are president?

London FOIL was set up in 2019 and has 56 member firms. Our focus on the London insurance market means that we have developed close working relationships with organisations including the International Underwriting Association (IUA), the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA), the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), the Association for Insurance and Risk (AIRMIC), the London Market Group (LMG), the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) and the London Insurance Brokers’ Association (LIBA) (I hope I didn’t forget anybody!) We really have our finger on the pulse when it comes to issues which are coming down the line. Members are well-armed when speaking to clients about what is keeping them awake at night.

Working closely with other members of the London FOIL Executive Committee, I have a responsibility to members to build relationships with the wider market, whilst maintaining a deep understanding of wider insurance issues in order to provide support to members. In 2023, we did some great work around ESG. For 2024, we are planning a conference focussed on the market’s response to biodiversity risk.

What else is FOIL up to?

I am really excited about Tomorrow’s FOIL, aimed at lawyers at member firms with less than five years’ post-qualification experience (PQE). Members of that division tend to have fresh ideas and perspectives and are working with their counterparts in insurance businesses to shape strategies for attracting talent to the insurance market.

What are insurers doing to tackle the risks posed by artificial intelligence (AI)?

The pace of AI innovation and integration is incredible. Intellectual property (IP) infringement and AI-facilitated hacking are major concerns for all businesses (and individuals). Tech errors and omissions (E&O), directors and officers (D&O) and crime policies are already responding to AI risks. Professional indemnity (PI) policies may also respond, especially to claims for the breach of IP rights or arising from AI-generated advice. Insurers are developing AI-focused products and endorsements to fix gaps in cover, some of which are being created by the revision of policy language (particularly by the introduction of policy exclusions) to tackle ambiguity or to address ‘silent’ cover. Insureds can expect proposal forms to include more robust questioning around how their systems operate.

What emerging risks are the market concerned about?

Insurers are navigating a particularly high-risk environment. Geopolitics, new technologies, ESG and claims inflation remain top priorities, but risks including AI, greenwashing, biodiversity and deglobalisation are emerging. The regulatory compliance burden is heavy, especially at a time when insurers are re-aligning their strategies to create innovative solutions for underwriting and claims handling processes. There is a lot to juggle, but the opportunities are vast.

And those writing professional indemnity cover, are there issues specific to them?

The counter-cyclical nature of PI claims means claims volumes increase when times are tough. Given the UK has officially fallen into recession, we can expect more notifications. Most claims teams are reporting an uptick in notifications so far this year.

A few weeks ago, the BBC reported that rising costs and interest rates led to more than 25,000 company insolvencies in 2023, a 30-year high. It follows that those professionals involved in restructuring businesses will face more claims. And that auditors will keep being hit by big Financial Reporting Council fines and claims where their audits have not uncovered spiraling problems. The momentum of the Audit Reform Bill has definitely been lost, but it is likely to really shake things up, if and when it is implemented.

A significant proportion of the insolvencies (4,000+) registered with the Insolvency Service last year were building firms. Many construction professionals are finding themselves ‘holding the claims baby’ when other members of the design team/sub-contractors are insolvent and cladding/fire safety exclusions or sub-limits leave them uninsured. I am handling a number of claims against brokers who have allegedly given poor advice to those operating in the construction sphere, for example for failing to advise that notifications should be made to expiring policies in the wake of Grenfell.

PI insurers are focused on cyber, ESG and AI risks and how they might impact on claims against their clients. We can expect to see more specialist products and wordings, with tighter exclusions and cover written back in by endorsement, where required. There will be a lag before we see a flurry of PI claims arising from ESG advice, but those advising clients on ESG issues and strategies can expect to see claims in the future.

What projects are you currently working on?

Biodiversity loss is a parallel challenge to climate risk. Along with nine other sponsors, Kennedys is partnering with an environmental consultancy called BrightTide to deliver a global regenerative farming accelerator programme. We will provide legal support to 20 businesses worldwide, in developing regenerative land and ocean farming solutions to provide sustainable food production and minimise further biodiversity loss. Our lawyers will help build and develop each business’s impact via webinars and workshops. I have a feeling that this will be a mutually beneficial arrangement with a rewarding learning curve for our lawyers and I am looking forward to being involved.

What achievements are you most proud of so far in your career? What would you like to be remembered for?

I made partner when I was 32. I remember being incredibly proud of reaching that milestone early. But I’d like to be remembered for not losing who I am along the way, always trying to do the right thing and using my influence to bring on talent which others might not always have recognised. I can’t take credit for the incredible lawyers I have worked with through the years, but I hope some of them would say I have given them confidence and support. Oh, and improving my team’s grammar. I’d like to be remembered for that!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I’ve got five tips:

  • Be prepared to work hard, but make sure you strike the right balance.
  • Take as much in by osmosis as you humanly can; you’ll be surprised what you pick up just by being in the room.
  • Make yourself indispensable to somebody.
  • The market is all about relationships. Planting seeds early will stand you in good stead.
  • And definitely one I still haven’t learned – a closed mouth gathers no feet. Or, as my mam would say, “if in doubt, say nowt.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to travel. I was lucky enough to trek with the gorillas last year and I was in Mexico for Día de los Muertos the year before (I’ll never drink mezcal again!).

Plans for this year include learning how to arrange flowers and decorate cakes. And spending as much time as I can walking my dog on the beach in Northumberland.