Emerging from stealth mode: MGA Aspect founder unveils his plans


Emerging from stealth mode: MGA Aspect founder unveils his plans

Niche property D&F MGA Aspect, backed by Everest Re and AmTrust, opened for business in April. Here, one of its founders explains why it has emerged from stealth mode now – and why its strategy is markedly unique.

“We want to be there not to compete or clash with bigger players, but to support them in writing business that they wouldn’t have otherwise tried to service – and help them achieve their growth targets.”

That is the message of Henrik Webster (pictured right), co-founder and managing director of niche property MGA Aspect, who spoke to Intelligent Insurer about his new venture and its unique strategy.

“We want to be there not to compete or clash with bigger players, but to support them.” Henrik Webster, AspectAspect — formed by former Medici Facultative executives Henrik Webster, Oli Williamson and Jeroen Goldman — opened its doors for business in April after months of planning. Backed by Everest Re and AmTrust, it offers direct and facultative property (D&F) capacity in the UK and almost all EU countries. Aspect has written around £5.5 million of gross premiums while in stealth mode and anticipates that by the end of next year, its premiums will exceed £25 million annually. With a team of 15 people who speak nine different languages, Aspect can accept submissions in Spanish, Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish, Polish and English. 

Webster has identified a shortfall of lead capacity in a market where many players are eager to follow but few are willing to lead. Aspect decided to enter the market to responded to this challenge and write policies for segments of the market they describe as “underserved”.

“We listened to the brokers and their feedback and worked off of that,” Webster said. “It was a calculated decision.

“By using technology, efficient processes and bit old fashioned hard work, we see a really good niche for us in that segment where not only can we provide value to brokers who can get fast quotes for the smaller premiums but also a lot of value to the syndicates and company markets who want to back us because they have growth targets.”

Aspect is “deliberately” targeting hard-to-place risks with relatively higher inherent hazards. Many of these are often considered too small or too mid-market to be insured and may not be worth it for other syndicates or company markets on a standalone basis.

“There are a lot of placements that probably would have gone into Lloyd’s but they were too small. We aim to give brokers a home for tricky placements that are too small for Lloyd’s,” Webster explained.

He believes the company’s ability to offer lead insurance and its own policy wording for surveyors in the UK and Ireland will position it as an innovative player and generate demand. Although Webster is keen to expand the company into other territories such as Australia, Sub Saharan Africa, and Latin America, where it already has experience and language skill sets, he is also cautious. “We wouldn’t want to be in every country for the sake of geography.”

“There’s a lot of good rates in parts of Europe. But we only want to get involved where it adds value to our capacity providers,” he said. “We would love to be in a space where we are a household name for commercial property on the lead side, but also respected in the Fac market for handling more complex risks from all over the world. We are not a million miles away from doing that.”

Webster emphasised that the company is focused on profitability and providing a better user experience for brokers and capacity providers in the property sector. It plans to do this by a mixture of using technology and its existing expertise.

“Some people find that a bit strange why wouldn’t you be able to or want to quote bigger premiums, but we are very happy with the niche that we’re in and the area where we add value,” he said. “We’re not looking to just grow for the sake of it, it needs to make sense. We want to make sure that it’s profitable.”

Webster thinks technology will make their business stand out. He noted that although they are traditional when it comes to underwriting and prefer face-to-face communication, technology can improve and speed up processes. He hopes its use will increase the number of quotes underwriters can produce by reducing data entry and streamlining other processes. The company is also in early stages of experimenting with new technologies like AI, which Webster believes could change the user experience for brokers and customers.

He also mentioned that the company has access to accounting modelling tools that many MGAs do not have, which allows it to take on more complex risks.

“We can produce policies at the click of a button. I think we quoted something within 90 seconds the other day because of the online submissions that we have a feed straight into our pricing tool,” he said.

“Many brokers complain that they can’t get hold of the underwriters and that is something we are going to change,” he added. “On the back end, we want to get the money moving as quickly as possible because there are so many issues with premium payments in insurance. It takes forever to move cash. We really want to be very accurate and very on top of things.”

While Webster sees large insurers struggling to integrate different systems, particularly given the presence of legacy systems, he claims that smaller and more nimble MGAs like Aspect are better positioned to be at the forefront of new technology. As more and more MGAs emerge, Webster predicts that even more cutting-edge technology will emerge.

“I can imagine that there will be more and more MGAs coming into the market to help some of these bigger companies because it might be easier for us to be at the forefront or to experiment with what works and what doesn’t work,” he stated.

Webster acknowledges that the business landscape is constantly evolving and challenges will always be present. While rates have been favourable for the past few years, it’s difficult to predict how long they will last. He believes that the difficulties faced by the treaty market have not significantly “fed through to the D&F market” that much, but there is a growing expectation that underwriters will deliver more premium due to the prolonged high rates.

There is a “lot of pressure on everyone to deliver high premium and to do it very profitably,” he said. He notes that higher interest rates in the past 12-18 months have created more pressure on the bottom line.

Despite the challenges, Webster sees opportunity everywhere, also in other lines of business, not just property. But he stressed that it will take a “disciplined” approach in selecting only the ones “that have the most payoff”.

“We are happy to prove our concepts in the UK and Europe outside of our home market, but we think what we do in property can definitely be applied to other parts of the world and the technology that we are bringing in will make that easier,” he said.

Webster revealed that Aspect is open to hiring individuals with specialised expertise in certain areas of liability but will be cautious of spreading itself “too thinly”.

“We’re self-financed, which gives us a lot more control over the business. But it does mean that we have done things the hard way and it’s taken a bit longer to get there. But now we know we can add value and want to double down on what we know best and deliver for the capacity providers.

“Anyone who wants to take advantage of that we’re more than happy for them to reach out to us. We are out there now for lead insurance, and looking to work with as many brokers as we can,” he concluded.

Aspect, Henrik Webster, London market, Reinsurance, Insurance, MGA, Direct and facultative, Property, Hard to place risks, Lloyd's, UK

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