Aspen: Everything you need to know
AM Best ratings: A (Excellent)
Gross written premiums: $603.1 million (fourth quarter of 2018)
Aspen Group is a provider of insurance and reinsurance to clients around the world, operating through wholly-owned subsidiaries and offices in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Aspen Insurance consists of many lines of business backed by industry experts across a broad range of industries, and operates on a global and regional product basis, which allows the company to align its product and distribution capabilities.
Its principal operating subsidiaries are as follows:
- Aspen Insurance UK Limited
- Aspen Underwriting Limited, corporate member of Syndicate 4711 at Lloyd’s of London
- and managed by Aspen Managing Agency Limited (United Kingdom)
- Aspen Bermuda Limited (Bermuda)
- Aspen Specialty Insurance Company
- Aspen American Insurance Company (United States)
- Aspen Insurance also has branches in Dublin, Singapore, and Canada.
Aspen’s global products include accident and health, credit and political risks, crisis management, cyber, energy and construction, environmental, excess casualty, marine, professional lines, railroads, and surety. Meanwhile, its regional product offerings include UK property and casualty, US primary casualty, and US property.
A dynamic timeline
Aspen Insurance Holdings was formed in 2002, and its UK subsidiary, Wellington Re, also launched in the London market that year. Its subsidiary in Bermuda was established shortly after the company increased its capital to $850 million. In 2003, Aspen Specialty was launched in Boston to expand into the US excess and surplus lines business, and write a book focused on the property and casualty surplus lines business.
Aspen’s first full-year results as a public company, with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange, revealed $1.3 billion in gross written premiums for the 12 months ending December 31, 2003. The company later diversified its portfolio by jumping into the aviation insurance business, and then forming teams dedicated to international property in both Paris and London.
Expansions into Singapore, new lines in the US, and reinsurance in the Middle East and Africa, among others, followed and before long, Aspen was celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2017, with the next major chapter in its history right around the corner.
Acquisition by Apollo
In February 2019, affiliates of certain investment funds managed by affiliates of global alternative investment manager Apollo Global Management and Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited announced that the Apollo Funds had completed its acquisition of Aspen. According to a press release, the Apollo Funds acquired all of the outstanding ordinary shares of Aspen for $42.75 per share in cash, representing an equity value of approximately $2.6 billion, with Aspen now being wholly-owned by the investment manager.
Chris O’Kane, Aspen Insurance’s CEO who announced he would step down when the acquisition was completed, reflected on Aspen’s journey in the release.
“Seventeen years ago, with 38 colleagues, $600 million of assets and a vision, we formed Aspen. As a result of hard work, determination and an unwavering dedication to our clients, Aspen is now a force in the reinsurance and insurance markets with over $12 billion of assets and around 1,150 employees,” he commented. “I am extremely proud of our accomplishments and I cherish the relationships and friendships, both within Aspen and in the broader market, which we formed along the way. I would like to thank all my colleagues at Aspen as well as our clients and brokers for all their considerable support over the years and it delights me to see Aspen poised to go from strength to strength under the new leadership of Mark Cloutier.”
The ins and outs of railroads
One specialty in which Aspen has expertise is the railroad business, specifically concentrating on Class II and Class III railroads, otherwise known as the regional and shortline railroads that act as the feeder lines into the largest Class I railroads. However, its global head of railroad noted that the transportation systems across the board face a few common risks, such as the commodity mix.
“There’s less emphasis on coal, for example, and from an insurance standpoint, we prefer to insure railroads that move coal because if you have a derailment and it falls to the ground, it’s easy to scoop up and put right back into the cars, so there’s not much environmental damage,” said David Adamczyk. “The concern we have is the fastest growing commodity for railroads is chemicals, and that creates a much higher exposure than moving coal. That’s where you’re getting into the large, what we like to call ‘front page news’ derailments and accidents, where a location might be evacuated or the area has significant environmental damage.”
As with many other sectors, cyber risk is also creeping up to the top of railroads’ list of concerns, especially considering the potential fallout from an attack.
“If there was a cyberattack in a railroad’s dispatching process, for instance, it could cause a derailment, it could cause a delay in shipping times, and it could also create lost commodities. So much of that is tracked by technology and if something was to happen to the system, it could create many problems,” explained Adamczyk.
The mergers and acquisitions in the railroad space likewise have impacts on insurance, specifically in that there are fewer risks for companies to cover.
“More and more railroads are being acquired by the holding companies out there. Whereas when I started my career, there were many more independently-owned railroads, over time holding companies were created and they started to purchase these other railroads,” he said. “With that, there are fewer and fewer risks out there for insurance companies to cover, therefore reducing the premium base that is out there. Given that this is such a potentially volatile industry, it has kept the markets stable throughout because there are only so many markets that could survive underwriting shortline and regional railroads.”