Hiscox has been doing business in Ireland for well over 20 years but set up their first local office in 2008. They are now approaching 10 years on the ground.
Irish Broker took the opportunity to talk to them
Can you give our readers a brief overview of Hiscox? Frank Kavanagh: Hiscox has three distinct business units. Reinsurance, London Market (Lloyds) and Retail (Insurance Companies in UK, Ireland, Mainland Europe, USA and Asia.) We’ve been doing business in Ireland for well over 20 years but we set up our first local office in 2008 so we’re approaching ten years on the ground.
Our underlying strategy has always been steady year on year growth producing a sustainable profit. As a specialist insurer we like to focus on our core areas and aim to do this with 3 main enablers: superb service, great underwriting and a powerful brand. Whilst our brand recognition amongst consumers isn’t as high in Ireland as it is in the UK yet, we believe it’s getting stronger every day and is already high amongst our broking colleagues. We like to think that in Ireland our brand is our people and our claims service and we’ve got great people working for us here as well as a market-leading claims service. We’re always looking at new areas of the market but the key for us is to work with companies who are specialists in those areas, and our schemes and delegated authority appetite is wide and varied. But essentially what we are looking to do is grow our retail business by 5%-15% every year and produce a COR of 90-95%. That’s our role in the wider group and we do that by limiting the volatility in our account. We take our big bets on reinsurance and big ticket business in Lloyd’s. So if an opportunity fits into that strategy then we’re very interested in exploring it.
What do you think makes Hiscox different? Richard O’Dwyer: For me the thing that makes Hiscox different firstly is the people. The group of people that are working in the office here in Dublin are young, enthusiastic, driven and personable. We want to have excellent relationships with our brokers and be the first people that they think of when it comes to any of our products, be that Personal or Commercial Lines. Our commercial underwriters all operate cross-class and this enables our brokers to have one point of contact for PI, D&O, Cyber, Property and Casualty business. This gives us a more rounded view of the overall insurance market and also enables us to offer package policies which make our brokers
and customers lives easier and that our competitors struggle to compete with.
Superb service is something that we continuously strive for. We will continue to work to improve the response times and quality of service we provide to our brokers. We want to make it as easy as possible for our brokers to place business with us as we know that for much of their small business it will be speed of service and accuracy that will win the day. We will always look to use IT to innovate and we constantly listen to broker feedback to improve our processes. Our brokers asked for an online system and we have provided this as an easy way for them to access our PI, Cyber and office products. Since its launch in September 2016 we have written about 400 policies on this platform and want to increase this to well over 1000 by the end of the year. However we acknowledge that many brokers prefer to interact with an underwriter and and so we allow them to choose which way they wish to access our products.
What does the future look like? Richard O’Dwyer: in Hiscox Ireland we set out with the aim of being the number one specialist underwriter in the country. We have had significant profitable growth over the past number of years and we very much feel like we have achieved this aim. Our GWP now puts us in the top ten insurers in Ireland but we don’t want to stop there. We have doubled our book over the past 5 years and aim to continue this significant growth with a consistent focus on delivering underwriting profit.
We will however not look to change our underwriting appetite significantly. Our aim is to gradually stretch the appetite in areas that we have experience and provide innovative solutions that make our brokers’ lives easier. We use data analytics to assess the underwriting information that we have built up over the years throughout the UK and Ireland and we use this to adapt our appetite and pricing to business that we know is profitable and provides our customers with an excellent product and claims service. This is a long-term project for Hiscox and the investment locally from the business shows this. We have always invested as we have grown and this can be seen over the past ten years. In 2010 we had 2
“Our brokers asked for an online system and we have provided this as an easy way for brokers to access our PI, Cyber and office products. Since its launch in September 2016 we have written about 400 policies on this platform and want to increase this to well over 1000 by the end of the year.”
Frank Kavanagh, Regional Underwriting Manager Ireland
“Our commercial underwriters all operate cross-class and this enables our brokers to have one point of contact for PI, D&O, Cyber, Property and Casualty business. This gives us a more rounded view of the overall insurance market and also enables us to offer package policies which make our brokers and customers lives easier and that our competitors struggle to compete with.”
Paul Gibson, Irish Broker recently paid a visit to the Hiscox Dublin office to meet Frank Kavanagh and Richard O’Dwyer.
In 2010 we had 2 people on the ground in Ireland and we now have 13. The business understands that the growth of the account needs to be supported with additional resources and this will be provided on both a people and IT basis. We are switching our model over the next 2 years to a portfolio model and this will allow brokers to place business with us more easily. It will reduce questions significantly on small simple business and allow our development underwriters more time to spend with our brokers underwriting complex cases.
A recent analysis of new companies being set up in Ireland suggested that 55% of these new start-ups fit our current appetite. As the economy evolves to more knowledge-based and digital businesses, our experience will enable us to understand these risks, provide them with the most suitable products and price them accurately.
Can you tell us about the recent changes in Hiscox Ireland? Richard O’Dwyer: As of the 1st January 2017, Hiscox Ireland has responded to brokers requests by placing all of our underwriting team in Dublin for both new business and renewals. In addition to this, Frank has returned as Underwriting Manager, having been the underwriting manager for our London account for the past 5 years and this is invaluable
experience to bring back to Ireland. I am the Regional Manager for Hiscox Ireland and have the ultimate responsibility for the sales, distribution and operations of the Irish account. Frank is Regional Underwriting Manager and has the ultimate responsibility for the underwriting decisions and profitability of the account. We have 2 full time dedicated private client development underwriters and 8 commercial development underwriters. In addition to this we have Nessa who is our office manager, facilities manager, regional administrator and PA all rolled into one!
Having the entire team under the one roof in Dublin allows our renewal underwriters the opportunity to meet our brokers on a face to face basis more regularly and underwrite in their offices if this is what they have asked us for. It allows us to identify and manage pinch points in service more quickly than we could in the past. Hiscox UK & Ireland has now insourced all administration tasks and this give us more control over the accuracy of our documents and speed of turnaround on administrative policy queries.
Can you elaborate on your product offering? Frank Kavanagh: At Hiscox we provide both Personal Lines and Commercial Lines products. All of our products are specialist rather than generalist.
“We are switching our model over the next 2 years to a portfolio model and this will allow brokers to place business with us more easily. It will reduce questions significantly on small simple business and allow our development underwriters more time to spend with our brokers underwriting complex cases”
Richard O’Dwyer, Regional Manager, Ireland