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A Global Conversation
Specialty Talk

Industry professionals discuss the hot topics and challenges facing the program, wholesale, and excess and surplus industry with AMBestTV.
  • March 2020
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Kyle Burnett

Kyle Burnett
Head of E&S Property
Axa XL

“Currently, the challenges we're facing are other underwriters and other companies. We're all concerned that somebody's going to fold up first, be the first one to give back on that rate, or be giving flat rates, and better terms and conditions.

As an entire marketplace—the retailers, the wholesalers, the underwriters—we want to make sure that nobody really folds up first, and we keep driving this market into the direction it needs to be going for the next three to five years.”


Joel Cavaness

Joel Cavaness
President
Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association

“People today are much less general in nature, and they're focused much more on the specialties, where they have expertise, they have data, they have information, looking at industries that are, of course, evolving or growing, versus industries that might be shrinking or going the other direction.

It's just matching up the offerings of the insurance carrier partners with the wholesale brokers, MGAs, intermediaries, or program managers of the types of business that they're seeing, so that it becomes much more an efficient exchange of information and opportunities.”


James Birch

James Birch
Head of Innovation
Brit Insurance

“The opportunity within insurance and reinsurance in more niche markets like specialty insurance is massive. I don't think the insurance is anywhere close to where the likes of retail banking, or wholesale banking, or otherwise have managed to embrace innovation.

That comes down to a nuance with who the customer is and that slight differentiation between banking and insurance, particularly in a brokered market. I think that insurance and reinsurance can learn from the banking sector, broader financial services, and also sectors that aren't financial services like retail, etc.

The key way to do that and embrace that comes down to data. At a fundamental level, that's understanding what data's available to help price, improve expenses, etc.

A broader, more macro level, how do we leverage something like open data and open data as a trend to bring ourselves and our market into the 21st century?”


Matt Power

Matt Power
President
One80 Intermediaries

“Program business, in my view, denotes specialization. There's definitely been a move toward specialization, especially given the recent market shifts and the conditions that we face today. There's more and more business coming into the excess and surplus line sector, and as a result, increasingly businesses being handled by generalists.

What the retail broker was looking for, to solve problems effectively, is specialization. That's what program managers speak to.

There's a lot of growth and interest in programs. It comes from a number of different angles. One, there's a robust M&A environment for program administrators. Increasingly, you see sole proprietors, program managers that want to sell their firms, based on the valuations they perceive in the market. Sometimes it's driven by succession.

Also, there's an increased interest in the part of carriers to partner with program managers effectively, to drive costs down and be more efficient, when they run a business model.

The program and wholesale business is a very, very busy space. If we looked at six months of last year, double digits increases in most stamping offices for excess and surplus lines. By the time the bill is tallied, the excess and surplus lines market in the U.S. is north of $50 billion.

There's going to be increased scrutiny and focus on best in class distribution partners on the part of retailers in terms of wholesale. Wholesale is going to grow. It's going to be robust. This is a prolonged period of market disruption that we're facing, and so it's going to be quite important.”


Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson
Wholesale Distribution Executive for North America
Liberty Mutual Insurance

“Liberty purchased Ironshore two years ago and have put a specialty company into their family. That provided a tremendous opportunity for Liberty to grow in the wholesale market. We have worked through and driven and focused on getting organized and attacking that with as much product as the Liberty family can give the wholesale market and focusing teams of people on partnering with the wholesale community.”


Eric Blecker

Eric Blecker
President, Northfield Insurance
Travelers

“What we see is the market's certainly firming. It's firming in pockets, so it's not necessarily the same all around. But we are definitely seeing some movement.

Quite frankly, we're hearing a lot more buzz here at WSIA and as we talk with our wholesalers and clients about what they see. We're certainly feeling some positive movement and some firming in the market.

We think that's the right thing. We think the market needs it.”


Bryan Salvatore

Bryan Salvatore
President of Specialty
Hanover Insurance Group

“There are many, many carriers in the marketplace. You see it, in particular, in the specialized lines.

There are many specialty carriers that focus on a set number of lines of business.

As you're thinking more account focused, you have to be prepared to differentiate yourself in a way that's more about what we're doing for the total customer, how we're working with the agent, as opposed to simply competing on price that I sometimes see some of the specialty carriers doing.”


Visit www.ambest.tv to watch the video interviews with these executives.


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