Managing general agents (MGAs) have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, offering specific, niche products designed to be more flexible and bespoke than what a larger insurer could offer. But with so many now available, the competitive marketplace is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.
Aquila Underwriting is an MGA incubator that was founded in 2007. It selectively invests in and develops MGAs with the intention of selling them off when they become established, so it knows how to pick the best opportunities.
Aquila’s most recent venture is WeSpecialty, a Paris-based MGA currently specialising in marine cargo. Leading WeSpecialty is Patrick de la Morinerie, who was most recently deputy CEO of AXA
Corporate Solutions in France. He said the cargo marine insurance business in France is lacking an entrepreneurial mindset and WeSpecialty can rejuvenate customer experience in the market.
“We want to put a light on really complex and sophisticated risks that cannot be responded to just with a purely local mindset,” de la Morinerie said. “We want to build innovative insurance solutions which would be adapted to clients and our brokers.”
The challenge for Aquila Underwriting is identifying the MGAs that offer an opportunity for growth and success. Aquila chairman Christopher Spratt said the selection process is stringent, and involves a significant amount of work to make sure the interests of the Aquila’s partner shareholders, the entrepreneurs driving the MGAs and the carriers align.
“Quite unashamedly we want these businesses to grow profitably and to prosper, so they become, not in the case of WeSpecialty just yet, but they become in a relatively short
period of time an attractive acquisition proposition to others,” Spratt said.
Aquila Underwriting does this by ensuring the entrepreneurs have a real stake in the business and not just employing people.
“We’re making sure that they have a proper equity involvement which concentrates their minds and drives their ambition in the best possible way.”