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5-Star MGAs 2022

Notable performance in a niche market

Supported by: Managing general agents are thriving in the UK. Delegated underwriters who often serve niche markets, MGAs have been there throughout the ongoing hard market, responding to brokers’ needs when insurers were less responsive.  

“The MGA market provides an important source of capacity during periods of limited appetite in the wider marketplace, particularly when they add value to the niche they are involved in,” says Douglas Brown, managing director at Renovation Underwriting, a 5-Star MGA winner in 2022. “This enables them to showcase their skills, develop wider distribution and give better value to their capacity providers – given that they don’t go too far off piste.” 

“The MGA market provides an important source of capacity during periods of limited appetite in the wider marketplace, particularly when they add value to the niche they are involved in”
Douglas Brown, Renovation Underwriting 

 

 

Through this year’s 5-Star MGAs survey, brokers have chimed in on their preferred MGAs, ranking them on everything from responsiveness to reputation to geographical reach. The 33 winners represent a group that has excelled in one or more categories.  

From the IBUK research, we’ve found that the typical survey participant presents a specific profile. He’s a broker who works for a brokerage with $10 million or less in revenue. He’s used referrals to find an MGA 11 to 50 times in the past six months and to access difficult markets. He considers the overall responsiveness of the MGA to be of the utmost importance, and while he would not likely change his MGA in the next year, he’d consider it if he were able to acquire better pricing. 

 

Signs of business health

“There was nothing that surprised me about the survey results,” says Mike Keating, chief executive of the Managing General Agents’ Association (MGAA). Although not astonished, he was impressed with a few findings. One is that more than 75% of participants said they were unlikely to change MGAs or neutral about changing MGAs in the next year. The other was the importance of responsiveness, the success of which Keating chalks up to networking.  

“[MGAs] are actually advocates for each other because they’re not necessarily getting growth through advertising,” he says. “And they’re getting it because they’re talking to their peers in other brokerages, and brokers talk all the time with each other.”  

Other areas he’d like to see improve were MGAs’ reputations with technology and automation, which rated a 3.44 out of 5 in importance.  

In general, whether MGAs are navigating a hard or soft market, Keating thinks they can do well if they focus on the fundamentals. “You can take the market cycles out of any equation if they continue to do the right things consistently,” he says. “Having a clear risk appetite. Having forensic data, forensic pricing. Good governance. Good, strong relationships with their capacity providers. Proactive with their brokers… If they do that then the market shouldn’t really matter at the end of the day, because they’re very excellent businesses.”  

Meanwhile, things are also going well for the MGAA. In July 2021, the Association expanded its operations to the Republic of Ireland, where there weren’t any trade organizations for MGAs. They already have seven members. “The MGAs in Ireland wanted an ability to connect to a like-minded community, to come to our events to network with other members,” says Keating. “There are probably 20 MGAs in the Republic of Ireland, and we’ve got 30-odd percent of them. 

“The overarching thing is that the MGA community continues to thrive in the UK. It’s growing the professionalism and reputation of the majority. The MGA community is extremely strong.” 

“The overarching thing is that the MGA community continues to thrive in the UK”
Mike Keating, MGAA 

 

 

Winners’ insights

Regarding the aforementioned profile of the typical survey participant, Brown says: “I don’t think there is anything here that I wouldn’t expect to be honest. Price is always an issue unless you’re able to deflect the assertion by offering something that your competitors don’t.” 

To be included in this year’s 5-Star list, an MGA had to score a 4 or higher on a scale from 1 to 5 in one or more of the following 10 categories: overall responsiveness, technical expertise and product knowledge, pricing, ability to place niche or emerging risks, range of products, reputation, marketing support, compensation, technology/automation, and geographical reach. Renovation Underwriting hit a 4 or more in all categories, becoming one of four MGA winners to achieve All-Star status.  

Brown says these are all great attributes, but one element is missing. “None of these things stands alone in making a successful proposition, but the thing that’s missing is people,” he says. “It takes an incredible amount of effort and commitment by everyone in the business, pulling together as a team and working for each other to deliver this breadth of skills and services.”  

Of the overall general success of the MGA market, Brown agrees that a lot of brokers are turning to MGAs after the pandemic to find bespoke coverage for complex risks. “I think this is very true,” he says. “Composite providers have to limit their offering to control their costs and exposures. This silo mentality means that they are very hard to compete against in the open market once they commit.  

“This does, however, leave space for the ultra-clear thinkers who perhaps have a different skill set and acknowledge that unique risk profiles are both challenging and stimulating, but which also command better margins because of their very nature. We are regularly challenged by what is offered to us and it proves to be one of the most rewarding parts of what we do. Solving problems in a way that creates more value is central to what the MGA market should be about.” 

“We have seen some mainstream insurers withdrawing from sectors they deem to be exposed to the impact of the pandemic”
David Haynes, ARAG UK

 

 

Market optimism

Meanwhile, David Haynes, underwriting director at ARAG UK – another award winner – echoes Brown’s sentiment when referring to the legal expenses insurance (LEI) niche. “We have seen some mainstream insurers withdrawing from sectors they deem to be exposed to the impact of the pandemic,” he says. “Employment practices liability (EPL) is an example where risk appetite has waned and opened up opportunities for specialist LEI providers to offer helpline support and indemnity against legal cost to employers faced with the prospect of restructuring their business.” 

Recently, ARAG commissioned its own independent research into the perceptions of and attitudes towards LEI among commercial brokers. Approximately half the number of respondents said they had seen demand increase over the past year and expect the trend to continue. Over two-thirds of brokers said demand for EPL has increased and nearly three quarters expect it to increase more in 2022.  

In the near future, says Haynes, MGAs will continue to thrive, especially the ones that provide products and services in niche areas that will help expand the reach of capacity providers. For example, the more additional services, such as claims handling, risk management services (e.g., helplines) or online legal documents, the more value MGAs can offer to the distribution chain. 

Meanwhile, ARAG is happy with its accomplishments and customer service reputation. For example, the Institute of Customer Service ranked the company with a customer satisfaction score of 83.6% – almost five points higher than the insurance sector average.  

“However, the clearest indication of ARAG’s success has been the achievement of its long-term objective of steady growth, year in, year out,” says Haynes. “Even through the turbulence of the pandemic, ARAG has been able to grow its business significantly – in challenging market conditions – and will soon announce that 2021 marked another year of profitable growth.”  

 

5-Star MGAs 2022

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • BC Underwriting
  • Breeze Underwriting
  • Burns & Wilcox
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Eaton Gate
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Generation Underwriting
  • Giant Insurance
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • Mercia Underwriting
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Nelson Policies
  • One Commercial
  • Pen Underwriting
  • Plum Underwriting
  • Policyfast
  • Property Protector
  • Thames Underwriting
  • Touchstone Underwriting
  • Victor Insurance

 

All-Stars

  • Azur Underwriting
  • Holgate
  • Property Protector

 

Pricing

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • Burns & Wilcox
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Eaton Gate
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Generation Underwriting
  • Giant Insurance
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • Mercia Underwriting
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Nelson Policies
  • One Commercial
  • Policyfast
  • Property Protector
  • Touchstone Underwriting

 

Technical expertise and product knowledge

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • BC Underwriting
  • Breeze Underwriting
  • Burns & Wilcox
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Generation Underwriting
  • Giant Insurance
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • One Commercial
  • Pen Underwriting
  • Policyfast
  • Property Protector
  • Touchstone Underwriting

 

Ability to place niche or emerging risks

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • BC Underwriting
  • Breeze Underwriting
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Eaton Gate
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Holgate
  • Instant Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • Mercia Underwriting
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Property Protector
  • Thames Underwriting
  • Touchstone Underwriting Limited

 

Range of products

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • BC Underwriting
  • Breeze Underwriting
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Eaton Gate
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Holgate
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Property Protector
  • Thames Underwriting
  • Touchstone Underwriting
  • Victor Insurance

 

Compensation (commission, bonuses, profit share, etc.)

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • CFC
  • Eaton Gate
  • Holgate
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Property Protector

 

Overall responsiveness

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Generation Underwriting
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Property Protector
  • Touchstone Underwriting

 

Reputation

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • BC Underwriting
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Generation Underwriting
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Policyfast
  • Property Protector
  • Touchstone Underwriting
  • Victor Insurance

 

Marketing support

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • Holgate
  • Magenta Insurance
  • Property Protector

 

Technology/automation

  • Azur Underwriting
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Property Protector
  • Victor Insurance

 

Geographical reach

  • ARAG
  • Azur Underwriting
  • BC Underwriting
  • CFC
  • Chapman & Stacey Underwriting Agency
  • Fiducia MGA
  • Holgate
  • Incorporated Insurance Group
  • Instant Underwriting
  • iprism Underwriting
  • Magenta Insurance
  • MG Underwriting
  • NBS Underwriting
  • Policyfast
  • Property Protector
  • Touchstone Underwriting
  • Victor Insurance

Methodology

To find out which MGAs are delivering standout service to their partners, Insurance Business UK surveyed brokers, asking them to rate the performance of their MGA partners on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) in the following areas: overall responsiveness, technical expertise and product knowledge, pricing, ability to place niche or emerging risks, range of products, reputation, marketing support, compensation (commission, bonuses, profit share, etc.), technology/automation and geographical reach. 

The MGAs that earned an average score of 4 or higher in at least one category were awarded a 5-Star designation, signifying their exceptional service. In total, 33 MGAs earned a 5-Star rating this year. Of those, four winners achieved All-Star status, having earned 5-Star ratings in all 10 categories.