UNiBA Partners News

Breaking the ice: James Kalbassi (Paragon Brokers) joins UNIBA's Board of Directors as Chairman

29 January 2024

James Kalbassi profile

The UNIBA Partners’ network is constantly evolving; new Partners join, IDMs and Senior Contacts change. Although we have the chance to see each other face-to-face, most of the time we are meeting behind our laptops. And in this online environment you might have missed a new Partner joining or a contact changing, right?  Through this article-series we will make sure that that doesn’t happen anymore! In ‘Breaking the ice’ we will introduce new Partners, their specialisations, and, perhaps even more importantly, the people behind it; what makes them tick? why did they join? what do they like? Because what is UNIBA Partners if not a business network of friends?

In this month’s edition a UNIBA regular with a new role: as of January 2024, James Kalbassi, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Paragon Brokers (UK) joined UNIBA’s Board of Directors as Chairman.

Although you’ve been a part of UNIBA Partners for a long time, can you please introduce yourself and your company for those that haven’t met you yet?

My name is James Kalbassi, I am Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Paragon Brokers. We are a specialist Lloyds insurance broker, very much focused on the Professional and Financial Lines Liability classes. We established the business in 1996 with four people and today we're 130 people with offices in London and Bermuda.

In 2019, we combined with the PSC Group of Australia. We're now wholly owned by this fast growing, exciting business that has offices and locations in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and now London and the UK.

What impact did UNIBA’s membership have on you and your company?

I think personally it was the opportunity to learn from and develop relationships with like minded business leaders and brokers from around the globe. It opened my eyes to global perspectives whilst reinforcing the best practice business models and client focus drivers that the Partners have in common. For Paragon, it meant that we have now become a global broker with international capabilities and resources that can benefit our customers wherever they go in the world.

As a longstanding UNIBA Partner, you’ve been heavily involved in the network, including a previous stint on the Board. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

I did serve on the the Board of UNIBA between 2017 and 2019 and that was a fantastic opportunity for me, not only to work more closely with the leadership of UNIBA, but also to get a much deeper understanding of the network, its initiatives and objectives. During that period on the Board, we established for the first time the ‘Chairman’ role, bringing mixes of broader experience and disciplines to the Board that have helped to drive many achievements in recent years. We really developed the Sponsorship strategies (with Insurers) during this period and they have paid dividends as we have been able to deliver even higher quality and better resourced Partners meetings with their funding.

I’ve enjoyed supporting UNIBA Partners in a number of other ways, such as presenting at the Barcelona Worldwide Conference on ‘The Value of a Firm’s Culture’, which is something that is very important to me as a Co-leader of Paragon. More recently I presented in Munich on behalf of UNIBA to a large group of international law firms, which is a group that Christian Hortkorn has been developing a great relationship with for future partnership opportunities.

As a Board member, whether it is in front of our Paragon teams or the London and European market insurers, I make sure I inform them what UNIBA Partners represents and what opportunities there are to collaborate.

As of January 2024 you joined UNIBA’s Board of Directors as Chairman. Can you tell us a bit more about what this role entails and what it would mean in practice for the other Partners?

As I said, I was fortunate to spend two years on the Board between 2017 and 2019 and had the opportunity to learn about the role and its duties. As Chairman, I'm looking forward to working with the new and exciting team under Mareen’s leadership. My role is to both support and challenge the Board as it develops initiatives and provides resources to enhance the experience of all UNIBA Partners.

I look forward to bringing my own experience to build on the great work done by Mareen and the various Boards over many years.

What what are some of the things that you would like to focus on these upcoming years?

I think that a Board can have a large impact on an organization. How well an organization is run, how well it delivers for all of its Partners and to ensure that we remain a market leading network of choice for our Partners and future Partners. It’s key that we continue to enhance that experience but also make UNIBA the to-go-to network for like minded and leading brokers around the globe. We’re already focussing on the development of the Regional Independence initiatives and how to build greater awareness of the Centres of Excellence and specialties within the UNIBA family - as well as our continued drive to develop business and support for our Partners.

To close off, what was your most memorable UNIBA experience these past years?

There have  been many fantastic trips to some great cities, meeting Partners in different environments, and to that extent, I think that each of the Conferences and meetings with Partners in their own ways have been so valuable. For me, the meaningful relationships and partnerships that I've been able to build personally and on behalf of Paragon have been very memorable, and they've all been established over fantastic meetings around the globe over the last decade.


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