Aspen's head of US distribution shares his insights into America's brokers

Where do brokers stand in 2023?

Aspen's head of US distribution shares his insights into America's brokers

Insurance News

By Lyle Adriano

According to analysts at S&P Global Ratings, insurance brokers have started 2023 on “sound footing” despite challenging financial conditions and the surging probability of a recession. But the same analysts also anticipate brokers to favorably perform in 2023 – albeit at a slightly lower rate than the highs reached in 2022.

So where exactly do America’s brokers stand in 2023?

Earlier this year, Aspen announced that it had appointed Nick Acker (pictured) as senior vice president, head of US distribution. Insurance Business picked Acker’s brain to learn more about what US brokers are up to, and how their relationship with carriers could change in 2023.

Can you tell us about your route into insurance and your progression to date?

I began my career in business development roles on the personal lines side actually. However, as I learned more about the breadth of our industry, I found myself drawn to the commercial sector and, more specifically, the specialty lines sector where I have been incredibly fortunate to work for well-respected companies. Even more importantly, I have been blessed with great colleagues and fantastic mentors from the start of my career.  

You were recently named head of U.S. distribution for Aspen. What can you tell us about your new role?

In my new role, the primary responsibility is maintaining and developing our Broker relationships across the United States. My secondary responsibility is working closely with our global distribution partners to ensure a more holistic strategy deployment. I am also excited to begin working with Aspen capital markets to understand how their capabilities can help provide unique solutions to our broker partners. Aspen Capital Markets’ track record was one of the things that attracted me to Aspen. 

The distribution team supports and helps to drive messaging into the broker community around Aspen’s product lines where we are looking to pragmatically grow. We also lead the messaging into the broker community for those product lines that are looking to rebalance their respective portfolios. At the end of the day, we are charged with growing our business where it makes sense and helping to maintain profitability. Disciplined underwriting and profitability will always be of utmost importance as we aim to be a long-term partner with our brokers and customers. 

How is the broking landscape looking across the US at this time?

Well, first of all, I believe the steady growth of the wholesale and E&S markets is here to stay. Whether that is through continued aggregation of specialty MGAs and program administrators, which provide more scalability, or through emerging risks that are better suited for the wholesale marketplace.

I also expect the largest MGAs to pursue consortiums of re/insurance carriers to support a wide range of specialty programs across their portfolios. This model provides the larger MGAs with more stability should one of their carrier partners need to exit a class of business. I am also of the opinion that the usage of API connections between carriers and broking partners will continue to gain momentum. This technology increases efficiencies and lowers business costs for both brokers and carriers.

Finally, I expect ESG initiatives to play a growing and more critical role in carrier thinking. 

Are there any emerging trends that you think will impact brokers this 2023?

Obviously, the state of the 2023 property market will be on everyone’s mind.  As reinsurance renewals are finalized, I fully expect capacity limitations and rate increases to become self-evident. It will be interesting to see if there are new entrants into the market or legacy carriers redeploying capacity into the property market due to an improved rate environment. For those carriers that were less impacted by the CAT events of 2022, 2023 could provide an attractive opportunity to grow their property portfolios, pragmatically of course. 

I am also interested to see how the expected, upward pressure on property rates affects the casualty lines.  Excess casualty, primary GL and cyber have enjoyed a couple of years of rate-on-rate increases. While those increases were absolutely necessary to ensure continued profitability, I am interested to see if the market will bear any further incremental increases in those lines.

Finally, I think terms and conditions will be interesting to monitor in 2023.  With more emerging risks and the present state of the property market, in terms of rate and risk complexity, carriers will need to become more creative with their solutions. They will need to be more focused than in prior years on matching exposure with the appropriate coverage and specific clauses.

At Aspen, we are known as an experienced, creative solution provider, and I think this current market offers us a lot of opportunities for strategic growth and to demonstrate our value.

How can insurance companies in general better improve their relationships with their broker partners?

This question is certainly near and dear to my heart.

I think mutually beneficial, strategic relationships with our top tier broking partners are easier to achieve than previously.  Through the sharing of higher quality data, we can target specific broking teams for specific product solutions that Aspen can provide. 

As a specialty carrier, we offer a variety of products and some are ancillary. As an example, railroad, railroad protective and environmental solutions could be very attractive to certain construction brokers placing project business with these exposures. Aspen also offers a robust crisis management product. 

In an increasingly uncertain world, our active assailant and terrorism & political violence coverage options are more relevant today than ever. At Aspen, high-quality data and deepening our strategic engagement with key broker partners improves our mutual likelihood of success, and ultimately, enables the insured to better manage their risk. 

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