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EC News (21st December 2017)

December 21, 2017

Round-up of the weekly news and developments from the global insurance market with stories from Volante, Marsh, Navigators and more.

Volante launches with Nephila backing

Former Dual International CEO, Talbir Bains, has launched Volante Global, a new multi-class and multi-territory international managing general agent (MGA) platform that is set to commence underwriting in 2018 having secured equity investment from ILS manager Nephila Capital.

The UK-headquartered global MGA platform will launch and begin trading in the first quarter of 2018, subject to Lloyd’s coverholder approvals. The firm plans to underwrite specialist portfolios of insurance and reinsurance business, including property and casualty, professional and financial lines, motor, space and aviation and marine and energy.

Led by Bains, founder and CEO of Volante, the specialist MGA platform benefits from the robust security of A+ and AA+ rated capacity and backing of principal equity investor Nephila, with the Volante management team participating as minority shareholders.

The group is establishing an international network of underwriting teams located in key territories to deliver local market service with a global perspective, culture and ethos.

Volante plans to begin underwriting commercial motor business with its first cell – Edison Motor – in February 2018 with AA+ rated company paper secured on a 5-year binder agreement. Edison will offer a range of niche motor insurance products and will write a portfolio including public sector business, hazardous goods and haulage.

Also in early 2018, Volante will launch Horizon Managing Agency AG (Horizon), a P&C reinsurance MGA headquartered in Zurich focusing exclusively on the continental European market. The MGA will be led by former Sompo Canopius executive Eric Gutiérrez and will offer extensive capacity across property catastrophe XL, property catastrophe aggregate XL and property per risk XL.

Volante’s UK MGA business will be incubated by Vibe MGA Management, which will provide turnkey compliance and appointed representative services. Volante’s international business will launch during 2018.

Commenting on the news, Bains said: “We are delighted to be launching a new and unique underwriting business, following investment from Nephila Capital and capacity support from our panel of A+ and AA+ rated carriers, intermediated by Aon Benfield”.

“Volante will deploy upper quartile underwriting capabilities dovetailed with local and specialist distribution strength, supported by an optimised operational platform. All of this will be highly enabled by a leading-edge, in-house technology centre which resides at the origin of our business, driving an innovative and disruptive research & development approach to deliver fully bespoke, cost-effective product and distribution solutions,” Bains explained.

“Our mission is to create sustainable, balanced portfolios of business, each developed by empowered underwriting teams composed of leading practitioners in their particular market specialties – they share the same entrepreneurial spirit that pervades our Volante culture. Our objective is to achieve superior underwriting and financial margin with zero compromise on delivering target returns to our sponsoring carriers and investor, driven by a philosophy of group culture predicated on transparency, empowerment and accountability,” he concluded.

Key hires to the Volante executive team include; Jim Donnet, CFO (formerly MD in the FIG investment banking teams of KBW, FPK and ABN AMRO); Damian McNamara, chief distribution officer (formerly head of international business development at Artex and Kane and experienced in insurance-linked securities (ILS) and collateralised reinsurance business) and Adrian Williams, chief legal officer (formerly general counsel (EMEA) at Swiss Re and head of legal for QBE European Operations).

Navigators agrees Belgian deal in European push

US-listed carrier Navigators has agreed to acquire a pair of Belgian entities as part of its European expansion strategy.

As part of the transaction, Navigators will acquire all of the shares of Assurances Continentales - Continentale Verzekeringen NV (ASCO) and Bracht, Deckers & Mackelbert NV (BDM) in a EUR35mn cash deal. In addition, Navigators will also acquire ASCO's Luxembourg-based reinsurance subsidiary Canal Re.

Navigators said that the acquisition reinforces its presence in the EU’s single market, enabling the carrier to best serve its European clients after Brexit, and also provides opportunity for BDM and ASCO to expand its well-established expertise to a wider European audience.

ASCO is a specialty insurance company offering marine and property and casualty insurance. BDM is an insurance underwriting agency that underwrites risk coverage in niche markets on behalf of ASCO and a number of major international insurers.

Navigators’ president and CEO Stan Galanski said that the carrier intends to combine its existing European underwriting operations with those of BDM, with Antwerp serving as the hub for continental Europe after the closing of the transaction.

“Europe is an important market to us today and vital to our international growth strategy — this transaction is an important step to enhancing our presence in and relevance to this dynamic market,” remarked Galanski.

“BDM has a strong reputation, a rich history and a well-established culture of underwriting expertise that mirrors our own. Together with ASCO, they provide Navigators with a scalable platform to support our product lines and geographic expansion across continental Europe,” he added.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2018, subject to regulatory approval. 

Trov teams up with Waymo to cover self-driving cars

InsurTech start-up broker Trov has partnered with Google's self-driving car technology unit Waymo to provide trip insurance for self-driving cars, which will be underwritten by an affiliate of Munich Re.

Announced last month, Waymo plans to launch a commercial ride-hailing service to members of the public in Phoenix, Arizona in 2018. As such, Trov has agreed to work with Waymo on providing policies customised for passengers of its soon-to-be-launched service.

The insurance coverage will include several protections for passengers for a variety of risks on a per-trip basis, including lost property, trip interruption benefits, and medical expense reimbursement.

Trov's on-demand insurance platform enables people to easily turn protection on for individual items that they own, and pay for only the protection they need.

The partnership with Waymo marks Trov's entrance into the mobility space, the first in a suite of solutions tailored to serve both today and tomorrow’s modes of transport.

In April 2017, Trov closed $56mn in Series D funding led by Munich Re / HSB Ventures, bringing its total funding to just over $97mn. Trov launched in Australia in May 2016, where it is underwritten by Suncorp, and the UK in December 2016, where AXA is its underwriting partner. Trov was founded in 2012. In July this year, the start-up regulatory approval to operate in 23 US states.

Shaun Stewart, Waymo's director of operations said: "Innovative technology needs innovative partners. Trov is pioneering a cutting-edge approach to insurance that's ideal for ride-sharing because it's customized for every trip. As we prepare to launch a commercial service, we're thrilled to collaborate with Trov to unlock the full potential of shared mobility."

Meanwhile, Trov founder and CEO Scott Walchek added: "This partnership highlights the convergence of the future of transportation with the future of insurance. Waymo is making personal transportation more effortless, and so it follows that all associated aspects of a journey - including insurance - should be equally painless, with passengers' safety and peace of mind paramount”

CEO of Munich Re's Digital Partners, Andy Rear said the partnership highlights how Trov’s “on-demand platform can be adapted for use in a variety of applications." 

Fidelis backs surety MGA Firestone

Fidelis Insurance has taken an equity stake in a new managing general agent (MGA), Firestone Surety, and will also provide underwriting capacity.

Firestone will focus on the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the surety market and will be managed by Fidelis’ MGA platform Pine Walk Capital.

The new MGA will be run by Andy Ray, who brings over 30 years’ experience in the surety industry. Prior to Firestone, Ray had been leading the surety broking division within Kerry London as managing director, since it was formed in 2008.

Fidelis Underwriting CEO Dan Burrows said: “We are delighted to have joined forces with Andy furthering our strategy to sponsor specialist underwriting products. Having someone of Andy’s calibre join our MGA platform is testament to the appeal that Pine Walk represents to talented niche underwriters looking to launch their own agency.”

Ray added: “There is a clear need for new capacity in the SME sector, supporting the bonding needs of main and sub-contractors.”

Earlier this year, Fidelis has announced the launch of its first MGA Radius, which will be led by former Hiscox Re head of specialty Rob Ashton and will focus on niche specialty treaty excess of loss business such as cyber, nuclear and PA retro. 

Endeavour taps Giles as non-executive chairman

Lloyd’s broker and delegated authority specialist Endeavour Insurance Services has named Chris Giles as its non-executive chairman.

Giles founded brokers PIB and EC3 Brokers and was also previously CEO of UK broker Giles.

Endeavour said Giles’ appointment forms part of its wider acceleration strategy, which involves proactively expanding into new areas of risk and investing in innovative technology to modernise and streamline business processes.

“We are delighted to welcome Chris on board as non-executive chairman, and fully expect to benefit from his vast experience and knowledge, helping us to consolidate and grow further and faster,” remarked Endeavour CEO David Lawrence.

“We are keenly aware that the pressure is on brokers to demonstrate that the role they are undertaking is indispensable and adds value to the (re)insurance process. From investing in new claims handling technology, to offering domestic producing brokers innovative portals that allow them to compete effectively at a local level, our aim is to be a significant driving force in transforming the way producing markets do business with Lloyd’s and the wider London market,” he added.

Meanwhile, Giles commented: “Endeavour has an impressive track record of adding value for its clients and is committed to providing coverholders, brokers and underwriters alike with the transparency, consistency and accountability required to work more efficiently. There are multiple avenues for business development, including attracting fresh investment to accelerate growth, and I am looking forward to exploring these options with the Endeavour team.” 

Hamilton appoints Patten as head of casualty

Hamilton Underwriting Limited, the managing agency of Syndicate 3334 and the Lloyd’s operations of Hamilton Insurance Group, has named Robert Patten as head of casualty.

Patten joins Hamilton from Novae where he also served as head of casualty. Before that, he held a number of senior roles at Aspen, ending his career there as head of international P&C. 

In his role, Patten will report to active underwriter and head of treaty, Trevor Carvey.

Commenting on the new hire, Hamilton Underwriting CEO Dermot O’Donohoe said: “With Lloyd’s’ approval to add excess casualty to our portfolio in 2018, it’s great to have the benefit of Bob’s significant experience and expertise as we enter this class of business.

“Bob will be working with Hamilton Re Chief Underwriting Officer Casualty Insurance, Steve Hartwig, and his team to source business in the London market. Steve and Bob’s outreach will be complementary, underwriting to a maximum capacity of $25mn in London and $50mn in Bermuda.

“With an expected improvement in rates, terms and conditions, it’s timely for Bob to join us as Hamilton expands its leadership in this market segment.” 

BP Marsh makes investment in EC3 Brokers

Venture capital provider BP Marsh has acquired a 20 percent stake in specialist Lloyd’s broker EC3 Brokers in a £5mn deal.

BP Marsh said the stake is a mixture of preferred and ordinary shares.

EC3 provides services to clients across a number of sectors including construction, casualty, entertainment and cyber and technology, with a focus on the US, UK and Middle Eastern markets.

EC3 was founded by its current CEO, Danny Driscoll, who led a management buyout to acquire EC3’s then book of business from AJ Gallagher in 2014.

In 2016, the broker reported £8.1mn of revenue and an EBITDA of £2.8mn.

Driscoll has over 26 years’ experience in the insurance market having held positions at Integro Insurance Brokers, Gallagher Re and Aon Benfield.

BP Marsh chief investment officer Dan Topping, who has been appointed to the Board of EC3, commented: “This is a classic type of investment for BP Marsh, investing in an experienced management team with a strong plan for growth. BP Marsh are also pleased to be investing in another Lloyd’s broker, to which we can bring our corporate experience and knowledge.” 

AGCS makes changes to board

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) has revealed a number of changes to its board, which will take effect from 1 July 2018.

Carsten Scheffel, who retires from his role as chief regions and markets officer next June, will be replaced by incumbent COO Sinéad Browne.

In her new board-level role, Browne will oversee the carrier's London regional unit, which includes the UK, Ireland, Nordics, Russia, Dubai and Australia. She will also be responsible for the Asia and South America regions.

Meanwhile, Bettina Dietsche, currently head of group operations at Allianz SE, will be joining AGCS in April 2018 to succeed Browne as COO, subject to regulatory and supervisory board approval.

During his career, Scheffel has held leadership roles in key parts of the global business in a career with Allianz spanning 40 years. He has also led both AGCS North America and London regional operations.

Scheffel originally joined Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company in Canada in 1978 and in the years since, held progressively more senior roles, including chief agent in Canada and president and CEO of AGCS Americas. He joined the AGCS board of management in 2015 and added Asia to his regional responsibilities in 2017.

In addition, AGCS announced that chief claims officer Alexander Mack will retire from his position at the end of June 2018 with Philipp Cremer taking on the non-board level role of global head of claims, reporting to AGCS CEO Chris Fischer Hirs.

Mack joined AGCS in 2007 as global head of long-tail claims, and was later appointed global head of claims across all lines in May 2013. Prior to that, he held a number of senior leadership roles at Gerling Insurance Company.

Cremer joined Allianz in 1996 as a corporate counsel. In 1999 he established a central liability claims department for the precursor to AGCS Germany. Since that time, he has held a number of roles at AGCS, including deputy CEO for AGCS Spain.

Commenting on the board changes, Fischer Hirs remarked: “. With her extensive knowledge of AGCS, I know Sinéad will have an immediate impact in her new market-facing Board role. Bettina brings a wealth of experience from across Allianz Group and beyond, and we welcome her to AGCS.

On a final note, by having direct responsibility for Claims at CEO level, we will continue to keep Claims at the heart of what we do. Our customers demand a superior claims experience, and I’m looking forward to working together with Philipp, our claims team and customers to constantly improve all aspects of our claims services.”