What's happening in the retrocessional broking market in 2024?

Senior leader shares key insights

What's happening in the retrocessional broking market in 2024?


By Mia Wallace

With a career spanning over two decades, the addition of Sarah Willmont (pictured) as senior broker at Lockton Re – the reinsurance arm of the independent broking giant Lockton – was described by senior leaders across the team as “a highly accreditive hire” and “a timely boost to our capabilities”. It comes at a key time too as she zooms in on the retrocessional market.

She noted that her key focus is on the production and placement of specialty property programmes, along with supporting some cross-class strategic initiatives.

“This is important for me as Lockton Re has been great and very open to utilising my experience in leadership insight, strategic guidance, people mentoring and culture setting,” she said. “I feel like I have been with the firm longer than the four months it has been, I have just got stuck in and that has been really welcomed.”

What challenges is the market facing in 2024?

Identifying some of the top challenges and opportunities facing the retrocessional market in 2024, she highlighted that the year will be an interesting one in terms of balance and relationship between buyers and sellers. She noted that the team is seeing a trend of clients looking to work with markets which can be relevant across a number of placements.

“If and why this continues with increasing market capacity, inevitable pricing pressure will be a sure test of relationships,” she said. “Meanwhile, the potential for clients to retain more given increased earnings will also be eagerly monitored by brokers and markets alike. There is the potential for market contraction without true product innovation.”

Looking further afield however, she believes the challenges beyond 2024 are also interesting – and largely similar to other sectors in insurance. For Willmont, addressing the talent gap and championing great diversity of thought are often talked about as challenges and opportunities, but all too often seem to move at “a snail’s pace”.

For a market that is so focused on people and relationships, she said, she thinks reinsurance firms in general could and should be a lot more focused on driving meaningful changes in their approach to these topics. From an internal perspective, Lockton Re is actively engaged in supporting clients in offsetting the challenges they face – but also in doing the internal work necessary to create a healthy and more sustainable reinsurance market.

What’s top of the agenda for Willmont and her team?

Supporting clients through turbulent market conditions is all about breaking down internal barriers and putting the client first, she said. Lockton Re operates one P&L with no competing silos which allows it to offer clients an unbiased opinion as capital ebbs and flows. It also allows experts within Lockton to work together more closely on clients allowing for cross-pollination between products – this is where the innovation will come from.

Though only months into her new role, Willmont has a firmly established agenda for the year ahead which embraces the ‘inside-out’ approach to doing business which drew her to Lockton Re. As with anything in the reinsurance sector, she said, it’s really all about the people.

As Lockton Re grows and expands its global retro capabilities, she said, it is committed to attracting and retaining the most talented people in the market. But the effort doesn’t stop there as critical to the firm’s success is bringing in talent who want to work in a deeply collaborative way.

“I have seen this demonstrated at every level in this team since joining,” she said, with really talented people working together to do the best job for clients. It is amazing how refreshing that is not only to work with, but from a client’s perspective also.” 

In addition, she noted that a key USP for Lockton Re is its significant investment "behind the curtains”, specifically in technology, analytics and client servicing. And this will continue in 2024 and beyond.

“We believe in the value of that for our clients and feel sure it is a good way for us to continue to grow our business,” Willmont said. “But the smart thing that resonates most is that growth and investment has to be in a long-term sustainable way which we think differentiates us from the competition now, but also in the future.”

How Willmont came to join Lockton Re

Having started her career as a broker in the marine-retro division of Benfield through one the few graduate trainee schemes of its type in 2001, Willmont remained with the business for 14 years, and saw its evolution into Aon Benfield. She moved to the underwriting side of the fence when she joined Canopius in 2014, where she spent a “fantastic” decade, filled with career highlights including being one of the youngest ever Active Underwriters in Lloyd’s aged 36, serving on the LMA board and becoming CEO of Canopius in the UK.

“Having been part of Canopius for 10 years it became time for me to rebalance my priorities so I took some time out to spend with my children,” she said. “I figured out during that time I needed to reassess my career choices and their impact on family life.

“I knew I loved working within the industry but I wanted to shape a role where I could have impact, add value but also have personal balance and that is when I really considered joining Lockton. [Those roles] are really not common and, in my opinion, that’s to the detriment of the industry.”

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