When Graeme Newman (pictured) first joined CFC Underwriting he became part of a team of 15 people – now, 13 years later, CFC boasts a workforce of some 500 people, spread across a variety of locations. The rapidly evolved reach and remit of the MGA is actually what prompted its recent reshuffle which saw Newman named as CEO while company founder Dave Walsh moved into the role of group CEO. In many ways, Newman said, this was a natural next step for the firm which has seen sustained and sustainable growth over the last decade or so.
“We kept telling ourselves that we are one business in London but the reality is that we’re not at all because, over the years, we’ve grown [a lot],” he said. “We acquired Solis in Texas, we acquired Insane Technologies in Australia. So we’ve an Australia office, a Texas office, we’ve set up a US proposition in New York. We’ve got an office in Brussels for our European vehicle and we very recently set up a Lloyd’s syndicate… so actually, we realized, we have a group here and lots of group entities at different stages of development and growth.”
The next logical step was to determine how to engineer the right management team to navigate the future for CFC, which is how this series of leadership changes came about. Newman highlighted he feels proud to be taking on his new role as he has been part and parcel of the business for so long. The culture of CFC, as with any business, need to evolve as it grows, he said, but the underlying principles that guide it will remain in place. This is a founder-led business at heart, he said, and he will carry forward the qualities and ethos that Walsh instilled in the agency deep within its core.
“Those principles are that we always try and look at the world from our customers’ lens, rather than what suits us as insurers and that we’ve always been a massively service-driven business,” he said. “And what we look to do is employ really passionate people that care about what they’re doing, work hard, and have a level of humility in that they’re always prepared to challenge themselves and to look at things differently.”
The challenge ahead, he said, is to keep that going, to keep bringing in brilliant new people and finding new opportunities for them to develop themselves. Newman will be leading the UK operations as they continue to develop and explore further opportunities for growth at scale.
“We’ve got exciting plans over the next five years, there always are at CFC. We’ve got grand ambitions and, hopefully, this will help us to realize them,” he said. “We’re really trying to go deeper in all the classes that we’re in because that scale means we get more data, more access to the best talent, and it allows us to deliver better claims solutions at lower costs. So that’s the name of the game.
“There are lots of people doing incredibly clever things with data in personal lines and increasingly clever things in mainstream commercial lines, but it’s relatively limited in the world of specialty lines. And that’s really where we’ve grown up, we think we can win the ‘data arms race’ in specialty lines by doing that in those really high growth areas of cyber IP and emerging technologies. It’s an exciting future ahead.”
What underpins CFC’s ambitions is the aim of providing a truly frictionless insurance experience and Newman highlighted that this means making the experience frictionless for brokers as well as insureds. By doing so, the broker can focus their energy on advising their clients rather than doing laborious administration, he said, which he hopes will allow CFC’s broker partners to successfully compete with the plethora of disruptive businesses rapidly coming up the ranks.
CFC’s strategy of being 100% broker-intermediated holds as true as ever despite the recent strategic shift, he said, and the business has the ambition to be the broker’s partner going forward and to put all their technology and data and innovative services in the hands of brokers.
“My message for brokers is that we just want to make specialty lines insurance simple,” Newman stated. “And for me, this is about not overcomplicating the experience. We’re 100% committed to the broker channel - we want to leverage our technology, our data science and our technology platform, to make our brokers’ lives easier, to make their customers’ experiences better. And hopefully, at the end of it, their customers have a different view to the average individual of what the insurance industry is all about.”