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What are the key challenges facing UK MGAs?

Tom Downey, CEO of Pen Underwriting, joins IBTV to explain the company’s five-year ambition, the difficulties facing MGAs in the present market, and how insurance companies can keep their employees happy.

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Tom: [00:00:26] Yeah. So our five year ambition is to be a billion sterling GWP business by 2025. How did it come about? Well, back in 2020, when I took over the role of CEO of Pen Underwriting, we'd spent five years being very inward looking, pulling together 14 different businesses from various acquisitions that our parent Gallagher had made across the UK. And at a time to come step back, look outwards, think about looking after our brokers, looking after their customers. And we said, Let's be bold, let's be ambitious, let's go from a £600 million GWP to a billion GWP. And how are we going to do that? Well, number one, look after our existing customers and their brokers. Grow that business organically, do some M&A. And we've been very successful. We brought Manchester Underwriting into the business in October last year and also do some strategic hires. So new people, new products, new opportunities, new solutions for our brokers. How's it going? So far, so good. We're on track for the billion, so pleased to say so. That's good. We've got a great team pulling together, making that happen, and we're well on track for exactly where we want to be at this point in the journey. 

Tom: [00:01:44] So I think the challenge is it's the same challenge really. It's about looking after loss ratios and capacity. I said every day impaired underwriting, I'll say it every day to the market. If we look after our loss ratios, we look after our capacity, then we look after our business, we look after our brokers and our cover holders and we look after their customers. It's really simple as that. That's what we do. That's what our ambition is to do. Do we have some headwinds? Of course, every business is some headwinds. And the other challenge I'd say is, is the war for talent. You know, there's a lot of great people in our in the sector. What is it in there? You know, there's a lot of talent that's hidden within the businesses and people are seeing that now. So as I said, our secret sauce is our people. But that secret sauce is also very tasty to a few others, and they'll come in nipping at our heels and trying to acquire, bring in the talent that we have in the sector. So that's what I would say is the challenges, but lots of opportunities out there. I see people, new forms of capital enter into the market, new carriers being attracted into the market. You look at the cloud and co survey from September 2021 after 18 months of pandemic lockdown, they're saying over 66% of MGA's is we're expecting new carriers to enter and we've seen that that's happened. And the best report, they were saying in March this year, more products being delivered. And that is so true. And that's what we want to do. It's about creating an environment where entrepreneurial, dynamic driven people want to work in a business that gives them something that they can work and bring solutions, not stifled. They can be. Agile, get. Do things that they normally couldn't do in a structure that we have in Pen and lots of other engineers have as well, which is good quality governance, real strong infrastructure. So, you know, MGA's is in vote. It's exciting, it's dynamic. It's something there that can really, I think, flourish and is continuing to flourish over the past two or three years, both in the UK and globally as well. 

Tom: [00:03:58] I love that word. I love that word. Happy. That to me is I try to wake up every morning being happy and all my colleagues in Pen are happy. We have success. How do we do it? Just being by an open and inclusive and empowering people. And trusting our people to do great things. Rewarding them. Looking after them. Do we have some people who will be attracted to other people? Of course they will. That happens. But equally, we have some people who've come home. As we said, they've come home back to Pen. They've left. They've got some experience in another company and another sector indeed. And come back and added value to our business. So we love it because they see what we have and see the business that we have. Over the past 24 months, we've done over 10% of our people have had promotions. That's fantastic and that's real talent. We can't have opportunities for everybody. Respect that. Some people want to move on. I've moved on in my career, so that's fine. But we want to be a place for talent. Comes, grows, develops, grows. My job. Is to grow the future. I'm not the future man. It's all the people in the future. 

Tom: [00:05:15] So we're continuing focus on our strategy. Really clear 1 billion GWP by 2025. That's really simple, really clear. All of our people understand that and they're really behind that. Everybody's focused on that. So that's about acquisitions. We've got a healthy pipeline bringing new talent in, and that new talent is also to bring new product, whether that's marine aviation, energy sectors that we're not in. So we have a broader solution for our brokers and their customers. So it's just continuing to build out, focusing on the strategy, executing it. That's what we want to do.