IGI president highlights the twin driving-forces behind recent success

"We feel that there's [significant] dislocation in the market"

IGI president highlights the twin driving-forces behind recent success

Insurance News

By Mia Wallace

It’s all about cementing bottom-line growth for International General Insurance Holdings (IGI), according to president Waleed Jabsheh (pictured). Reflecting on IGI’s 2020 full-year results, he highlighted that the most rewarding figures published showcased a focus on a long-term, sustainable approach - from its increase in gross underwriting profit of almost 50%, to its improved combined ratio, which decreased 4.8 points.

“Of course, if you have short-term opportunities that come your way, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of them, but our focus is on long-term initiatives and sustainability,” he said. “And that comes with diversification, adding new lines of business and bringing in new teams. We feel that there’s still a lot of dislocation in the market that will allow us to continue with this approach throughout 2021.”

The market is now in a place where pricing pressure is going in the right direction, he said, which has meant that underwriting and doing business has been more rewarding in the last 12 to 24 months than it has been in many years. IGI has seen rate increases across practically all its lines of business and, so far into 2021, has seen no let-up. By and large, it’s a healthy market, but this rate momentum trajectory needs to continue to allow businesses to take full advantage of the opportunities it offers.

Jabsheh believes that a company like IGI is primed to thrive in these market conditions. This will be made possible by its twin approach of exploring new lines of business while continually refining its portfolio.

IGI launched its US E&S platform after listing on the Nasdaq in March 2020, and it wrote just over $20 million (approx. SG$ 26.92 million) of premium in the US last year across business, property, energy and terrorism classes. IGI has now added marine trades and cargo classes to its book, the impact of which will become clearer in the coming two to three years. The company also announced plans to launch a European office in Malta, subject to regulation.

“[Our growth] comes down to our strategy and our underwriting appetite, which has never really changed,” he said. “We have been consistent in our approach to risk selection. Pricing conditions have been more attractive, terms and conditions are getting tighter, thus improving coverage requirements. However, there’s still a lot of difficult business in this market so if your underwriting approach and your risk selection aren’t sound, then there’s still a lot of ways one can get hurt.”

A company’s portfolio is never exactly where you want it to be, noted Jabsheh, and refinement really is instrumental to success. Refining a portfolio is more difficult in a soft market so it makes sense for insurance companies to seize the opportunity a hard market provides in order to be more selective. IGI’s consistent message to its underwriters is to “refine and grow”.

Service is built into the DNA structure of the business, he said. An instrumental part of providing this service is maintaining its long-standing broker partnerships while always looking out for new product sources to tap into. Its flat management structure and balanced underwriting structure, where decisions get made quickly, are what make it a good match for start-up intermediaries bringing innovative new solutions to the market.

“If you provide the right quality of product and service to your clients and to your brokers, then they will keep coming back,” he said. “A lot of this obviously hinges on the claims side, not just on the underwriting service. We’re here to pay a claim when our clients need us, this is the promise that we’re giving them, this is the product that we’re selling. And if we’re unable to fulfil that, then we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. And I believe that, because we have built a strong reputation among our peers and the wider broking community in the market, this is what attracts them to doing business with a company like IGI.”

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